The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has released October’s labour force figures, revealing a troubling rise in unemployment and job losses. Australia’s unemployment rate rose by 0.6 points this month.
According to the ABS October report, the nation’s unemployment rate is now at 5.2 per cent. To put this figure into clearer numbers, the number of unemployed people across Australia is now 707,300. This reflects an increase of 81,800 since last month.
Data from the ABS suggests unemployment is only 1.2 per cent lower than it was at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
Young people in Australia are also feeling the heat. Youth unemployment rose by 2.3 percentage points last month to 13.1 per cent. Notably unlike the statistics for average adult unemployment, young people were struggling significantly more in March last year.
Although the month’s rise may seem bleak, it is valuable to observe these figures in context. Unemployment has been in steady decline since around October 2020. Figures suggest unemployment was at its highest in recent years in July last year, likely reflecting job losses and departures in line with the changing conditions of the pandemic.
Naturally, the ABS’ figures reflect average unemployment across the nation. However, the figures change from state to state. Regions in Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory have been in months-long lockdowns that have undoubtedly impacted their employment figures.
The Guardian’s Greg Jericho notes in an article regarding September’s figures that the ABS does not represent the nuances of joblessness in the pandemic era. Indeed, the ABS cannot account for those who are technically ‘employed’ but not receiving work, such as shift workers stuck in lockdown.
The ABS has not disclosed any interpretation of the data. At this stage it is uncertain why previously declining rates of unemployment have risen over a one-month period.
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