Australian Labour Market Starting to Recover: ABS Survey

May 18, 2020 Updated: May 18, 2020

The number of Australians with a job has steadily increased over the month to early May, a survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found.

The proportion of people reporting they had a job had increased to 64.2 percent, up 0.8 percentage points over the month from the first week of April, figures from the Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey show.

That proportion had been 66.2 percent in early-March, before strict social distancing measures to check the spread of coronavirus were imposed in late-March.

The proportion of people indicating they had worked paid hours also increased by 3.2 percentage points to 59 percent. It had been 64 percent in early March.

While not significant, the figures indicate some improvement in labour market conditions, which have suffered from the impact of the COVID-19 related lockdowns.

“The ABS survey shows signs that employment is beginning to recover,” National Australia Bank economist Kaixin Owyong said.

“This is very encouraging given the size of the hit to the labour market.”

Data released last week showed Australia’s economy lost a record 594,300 jobs during April following coronavirus-related restrictions, which led to widespread business closures.

The ABS cautioned that results of the latest survey of 1022 households were not directly comparable to Australia’s official labour force data given the sample size of that survey was about 50 times larger.

Among the findings of the Household survey was that nearly half of all Australians with jobs said they were working from home.

It also indicated financial stress is widespread, with 22 percent of respondents saying at least one person in their household had experienced one or more problems related to employment, housing, and finances.

Personal stress was also common, being reported by 43 percent, with loneliness the most common problem.