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Unemployment levels are bad, no matter what the numbers say

Business

Forget the official unemployment rate; it’s not working either _ that was the clear message from economists today after the jobless rate fell despite the east coast lockdowns.

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics unemployment rate came in at 4.5 per cent nationally (down 0.1 per cent) and 5.3 per cent in Queensland (up 0.1 per cent).

But that’s because of the woeful picture shown by workforce numbers. About 147,000 people lost their jobs in August and the participation rate fell dramatically.

Because the workforce shrunk the unemployment rate appeared better, but it was a long way from reality. The reason people left the workforce was not necessarily because there were no jobs but because the lockdowns prevented them from participating.

ANZ said the unemployment rate would continue to rise and peak after restrictions were lifted.

IFM economist Alex Joiner said the unemployment rate was not a true indicator while AMP Capital’s Shane Oliver said a better guide was underutilisation which increased to almost 14 per cent.

Full time jobs in Queensland fell by 24,000, part time jobs were similar to the previous month and the number of Queenslanders unemployed increased from 145,000 to 148,000.

Conus Consultancy economist Pete Faulkner said despite only limited lock-downs in Queensland the story was similar to the southern states.

“Employment fell by 29,800, participation dropped by 0.7 percentage points and the headline unemployment rate lifted only slightly to 5.3 per cent (from 5.2 per cent),’’ Faulkner said. 

“Perhaps surprisingly, hours worked per capita fell even faster in Queensland than nationally; down 5.4 per cent from July. 

“At this stage suffice to say that the effective unemployment rate in Australia is more than 7 per cent while in Queensland it is closer to 6 per cent.’’

He said the number of people who worked zero hours _those who are employed but not working _ in Queensland also increased but remains well behind the national level which had increased 180 per cent since May.

The ABS also issued population data showing that Queensland gained 43,900 people for the year to March while Victoria lost 42,900.

With 12 months of COVID-19 international travel restrictions in place, net overseas migration was down by 334,000 people compared with the previous year. Arrivals decreased more sharply (-81 per cent) than departures (-45 per cent) over the period.

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