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Too good for our own good? Why Queensland has nation's worst unemployment stats

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A strong return to job confidence, strong population growth and a good COVID response have ironically been big factors in Queensland holding the worst unemployment level in the nation.

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But it’s a confusing picture because states like Victoria, which was locked down for three months, are now performing better in unemployment than Queensland where restrictions have been far lighter.

The reality is that Queensland is performing much better. More people are looking for work in Queensland and the state’s population growth is stronger than the national rate.

“The simple answer is that Queensland’s labour market has been that much stronger than Victoria’s that many more people have entered the market to get jobs,” Conus Consultancy economist Pete Faulkner said.

“In Victoria, the market has been so weak that people are leaving the market. Given that the unemployment rate is simply the percentage of those in the market (ie employed and unemployed) who are unemployed, as the number in the market falls then the unemployment rate will remain low even if the number unemployed doesn’t fall.

He said the average hours worked in Queensland was up in November but down significantly in Victoria.

“Many more people in Victoria are working a lot less hours, even if they are not actually unemployed,” he said

“Ultimately what really matters is how many people are in work and how much work are they doing. On both of those metrics Queensland is doing much better than Victoria.

It isn’t all good news, though.

Economist Gene Tunny, from Adept Economics, points out that Queensland had a high jobless rate entering the recession, which has been a factor in the recovery.

There are other factors weighing on the Queensland economy such as its dependence on tourism, which has taken a hammering during the pandemic.

The Queensland economy has coped with the COVID shock better than most, he said.

Since lockdowns took hold in southern states there has been anecdotal evidence of a surge in interstate migration. The official data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows a net interstate migration of 25,348, for the year to June.

Real Estate Institute of Queensland chief executive Antonia Mercorella recently said that the state had experienced an unusually high net interstate migration.

“In fact, the impact of COVID-19 and the associated migration restrictions have had the smallest impact on Queensland’s population growth to date, with strong interstate migration into Queensland set to continue.’’

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