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The latest ABS employment data, what are we seeing?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today released latest employment data. For those looking for some insight into the impact of COVID-19, you will need to wait. The next release will tell us more about that.

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23 November 2020
David Schmidtchen
5mins

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today released latest employment data. For those looking for some insight into the impact of COVID-19, you will need to wait. The next release will tell us more about that.

Financial institutions and economic commentators are forecasting double digit unemployment. In Australia’s history we had only double-digit unemployment twice in the last 40 years (1983 and 1991-93).

The interesting feature of the new data is that the share of part-time employment and underemployment are continuing to rise. The $130 billion JobKeeper payment will help keep more Australian’s in jobs, which will release the mounting pressure on the expected rise in unemployment.

But it is these two groups that felt the effect of economic contraction due to COVID-19 most swiftly and directly but we may also see these groups rise as permanent employment changes shape. So, in future ABS releases we need to watch these figures closely.

The COVID-19 virus is quickly restricting the composition and structure of the Australian labour market. We could end up in the situation of having:

  • high unemployment,
  • higher underemployment, and
  • a larger proportion of part-time employees.

This has not been our history when there has been double digit unemployment, in those times we have had:

  • high unemployment,
  • low underemployment, and
  • a smaller proportion of part-time employees.

Australia has an older workforce with a relatively high participation rate in both 55-59 (75%) and 60-64 (58%) 65-69 (30%) age brackets (totalling 1.88m workers). These age ranges are more at risk with higher levels of incidence and a more severe impact on health. 

COVID-19 could lead to significant numbers of highly experienced and skilled workers in key positions retiring leaving a large unmet skill demand in some of our key industries. This may impede the speed of recovery of key businesses as well as businesses connected to them by local and national supply chains delaying the recovery of the economy as a whole.

How government and business respond to these changes will be central to our national economic recovery.

Who are we? 

Synergy’s Advanced Modelling Group (AMG) specialises in Labour Market, Workforce and Demographic Modelling (incl. migration), Macroeconomic Modelling and Economic Impact Analysis, and Critical Infrastructure Modelling. Our team of experienced economists and modellers works closely with every part of Synergy’s business to provide our government and private sector clients with insight into the economic trends that affect policy, regulation, service delivery, and people. If you like to know more about AMG, contact Dr David Schmidtchen.

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