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Australian labour market continues to contract

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest labour force data today (October 14, 2021) – Labour Force, Australia – for September 2021. The background is that the entire East Coast is in or has been in lockdown over the last few months and for the two largest labour markets (NSW and Victoria) that lockdown has been very tight. Both states are in the process of easing restrictions as vaccination rates rise. The September 2021 data reveals that the longer NSW lockdown is now impacting heavily on employment growth which is now 4.7 points below the March 2020 level. Similarly, Victoria’s employment level has fallen and is 2.1 points below the pre-pandemic level. Overall for the nation, employment fell for the second consecutive month as did the participation, the latter cushioning the rise in official unemployment. But if we take into account the participation decline, the actual unemployment rate would be 5.7 per cent rather than the official rate of 4.6 per cent. Quite a difference. The turbulence caused by the pandemic has really masked the steady decline before that and my estimates are that the true unemployment rate, taking into account the rise in hidden unemployment since August 2019, is close to 7 per cent. Again, quite a difference. The more stable ratio – the Employment-to-Population ratio plunged again in September – two months of massive declines. Last month, I predicted the situation will would worse in September – and it did. So while the unemployment rate might be relatively low by recent historical standards, the situation is dire. The lack of any significant stimulus from the federal government is telling. There is now definite evidence that further and rather massive fiscal support is required.

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