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Unemployment falls to 5.5% in April despite end of JobKeeper

·3-min read
Blurred image of business people crossing the road
April jobs numbers reflect the end of the JobKeeper scheme (Source: Getty)

The unemployment rate has fallen to 5.5 per cent in April despite the JobKeeper scheme ending, with 33,800 full-time jobs added.

Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, said this was the sixth consecutive fall in the unemployment rate, down from 6.9 per cent in October 2020.

“The unemployment rate is now 0.2 percentage points above the start of the pandemic. Importantly, it’s 2 percentage points below its peak in July 2020, when it was 7.4 per cent,” Jarvis said.

“The youth unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since the Global Financial Crisis, reflecting a strong increase in employment for young men, following a number of increases for young women in recent months.”

Employment actually fell by 30,600 in April but full-time jobs rose by 33,800, and part-time jobs were down by 64,400. 

The jobless rate fell to a 13 month low of 5.5 per cent and there were 33,600 fewer people classified as unemployed.

Despite concerns, the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy did not have a discernible impact on employment between March and April, Jarvis said.

“We have not seen large changes in the indicators that would suggest a clear JobKeeper impact, such as an increase in people working reduced or zero hours for economic reasons or because they were leaving their job," Jarvis said.

“Some of the 31,000 fall in employment may relate to the end of JobKeeper, but it could also reflect usual month-to-month variation in the labour market and some larger than usual seasonal changes similar to those we saw earlier in the year.“

The falls in both employment and unemployment in April saw the participate rate decrease 0.3 percentage points to 66 per cent – back to around pre-pandemic levels.

The female participation rate decreased 0.5 per cent to 61.3 per cent and the male participation rate decreased 0.1 percentage points to 70.8 per cent.

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These are the first set of unemployment figures to be released that show the impact of the end of the JobKeeper scheme.

There had been initial concerns that the end of the scheme would leave hundreds of thousands of Aussies without a job.

The Reserve Bank of Australia had estimated that JobKeeper saved at least 700,000 jobs and said “overall employment losses would have been twice as large over the first half of 2020 without JobKeeper.”

The new figures come after The Seek Employment Report for April showed every Aussie state and territory has seen an increase in job ads as Australia's recovery from COVID-19 lows continued to grow.

“For the second consecutive month, we have seen the highest number of job ads ever posted on,” Seek managing director Australia and New Zealand Kendra Banks said.

“Traditionally at this time of year we would be talking about a quieter employment market due to the impact of the Easter holidays on recruitment – but to say this is not a typical year is an understatement.”

Australia also added close to 71,000 jobs between February and March 2021 according to the ABS.

Hours worked returned to pre-pandemic levels last month indicating an increase in full-time employment.

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