Unemployed Australians Reach One Million for First Time

Unemployed Australians Reach One Million for First Time
Hundreds of people queue outside a Centrelink in Melbourne, on March 23, 2020 (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

More than one million Australians are out of work for the first time since records began, with the unemployment rate climbing slightly to 7.5 percent.

The situation could get much worse, given the latest jobless figures do not reflect the impact of Melbourne’s stage four lockdowns, which came into effect last week.

The unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent in July from 7.4 percent the previous month, despite another large jump in the number of people who found work.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said every job lost as a result of coronavirus was devastating.

But she said the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed there was underlying resilience in the economy, with a further 114,700 people returning to work.

This built on the revised 252,000 increase in employment in June.

July’s rise included 43,500 full-time and 71,200 part-time positions.

“That shows you that, when you get the health crisis under control, then across Australia you are able to ease restrictions, reopen your economy, you will see those jobs returning,” Senator Cash told reporters in Perth.

The participation rate—those people in work or actively seeking employment—rose to 64.7 percent, causing the unemployment rate to rise.

However, the ABS said the number of people employed was still more than half a million lower than seen in March when the virus first hit Australia’s shores.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said the increase in unemployment was confronting.

BIS Oxford Economics chief economist Sarah Hunter expects employment will slip back in August as Victoria’s stage four restrictions are felt.

The Reserve Bank expects the unemployment rate to hit 10 percent by the end of this year and still be about seven percent in two years time.

Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe will be grilled on this outlook when he faces federal politicians on Friday.

Colin Brinsden in Canberra