Australian employment falls further, intensifying labor market stress

 

Australian employment fell by 1% over the month to Aug. 8, data showed on Tuesday, with job prospects particularly hard hit in the southeastern state of Victoria as it grapples with a fresh wave of coronavirus infections.

FILE PHOTO: A cashier works behind a protective plexiglass shield at a Coles supermarket following the easing of restrictions implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, June 17, 2020. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

The latest fall in employment underlines the deepening cracks in the labor market, with the government predicting unemployment in the country would climb above 13% by the end of September, from a 22-year high of 7.5% in July.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed payroll jobs for the period fell 2.8% in Victoria, which has suffered the biggest decline in employment since mid-March when Australia recorded its 100th coronavirus case.

The release, an experimental weekly series, differs from the monthly official employment data and is based on wage payment figures from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Economists said Tuesday’s numbers are a cause for concern as they showed job growth had stalled after a sharp rebound in recent months.

“Obviously Victoria isn’t helping and weakness across Victoria may have spilled over to other states,” said Callam Pickering, an economist at global job site Indeed.

“Policymakers will need to be proactive in the coming months and there should be a concern that rates of JobSeeker and JobKeeper are being reduced when unemployment remains so high.”

About 1.3 million Australians have applied for the COVID jobless benefit, called JobSeeker, according to government figures.

Economists estimate at least another 6 million people - a quarter of the population - are having their wages subsidized by a separate relief package for shuttered companies called JobKeeper.

“Clearly many Australian businesses are in a precarious position and that is reflected in their hiring decisions,” Pickering said.