The jobless rate in Australia has started to fall alongside the relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions but more than two million people are out of work, according to newly released employment estimates.
The latest estimates by market research company Roy Morgan show that in May, 14.8 per cent of the workforce (2.09 million Australians) were unemployed — down 69,000 on April.
An additional 9.7 per cent of the workforce (1.37 million) were under-employed, up 44,000.
This means 3.46 million Australians (24.5 per cent) were either unemployed or under-employed, down 25,000.
The data on Australia’s unemployment and “under-employed” was gathered from weekly face-to-face interviews of 684,202 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and May 2020, where those classified as “under-employed” include those working part-time or freelancers looking for more work.
The decline in unemployment is good news as the Australian economy opens up but also illustrates how far the economy needs to go to return to the state it was in pre-lockdown.
Compared to early March, the last measure before lockdown, there are an additional 1.07 million Australians unemployed.
Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 14.8 per cent for May is more than double the current ABS estimate for April 2020 of 6.2 per cent.
However, chief executive Michele Levine said the ABS figure for April estimated a large decline in the size of the workforce which it said was down 490,000; if the ABS workforce estimate for April had matched that in March the ABS unemployment figure would have been 9.8 per cent (1.35 million).
“If the unemployed or under-employed numbers continue to drop at the rate of 25,000 per month it will take over four years until September 2024 before it approaches the levels of early March 2020,” she said.
Earlier this week Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced Australia had entered its first recession in almost three decades.
Ms Levine said for Australia to emerge from the recession quickly during the next few months businesses and unions must work together to forge sensible and equitable solutions that encourage employers to hire new workers.
She said a special Roy Morgan SMS survey conducted this week showed the recent Federal Court decision to award extra entitlements to certain categories of casual employees would effect up to 794,000 Australian businesses.
A quarter of businesses (567,000) said they would be deterred from hiring casual employees and more than 1-in-20 businesses (123,000) said the decision would “force them to close”.
“These results show that if businesses and unions don’t work together to develop sensible and realistic industrial relations many hundreds of thousands of Australians that have been put out of work as a result of the ‘COVID-19 Financial Crisis’ will struggle to find new jobs and risk becoming long-term unemployed,” Ms Levine said.