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64,000 jobs lost in NSW as lockdowns drag the Aussie economy

Empty streets in the Sydney CBD looking towards the Harbour Bridge. A sign showing a COVID alert. A man in a high-viz shirt walks alone in the Sydney CBD.
Just 2,000 jobs were added across the country from June to July, bringing the unemployment rate down to 4.6 per cent (Source: Getty)

Only 2,000 jobs were added between June and July this year with much of Australia plunged into lockdown due to the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Unemployment decreased 0.3 per cent to 4.6 per cent, while the underemployment rate increased to 8.3 per cent.

According to fresh Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data, harsh lockdowns in New South Wales and Victoria drove the dive in employment.

Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, said the July data coincided with the early weeks of the Greater Sydney lockdown, increased restrictions in other parts of New South Wales, and a series of changes in restrictions in other parts of the country.

“The labour market changes in New South Wales between June and July had a large influence on the national figures,” he said.

In NSW alone, around 64,000 people lost their jobs in the early stages of the lockdowns. All eyes will now be on next month's numbers which will more fully represent the effects of the lockdowns.

Hours worked in NSW also dropped significantly, down 7 per cent, but were offset by increases in employment and hours in Victoria.

“Before the pandemic, people in New South Wales accounted for 31.8 per cent of national employment and Victorians accounted for 26.5 per cent,” Jarvis said.

“Large changes in these two states are important in understanding changes in the Australian labour market.”

Participation and employment down

The national participation rate fell by 0.2 percentage points to 66 per cent and the unemployment rate by 0.3 percentage points to 4.6 per cent.

This was underpinned by a large drop in the New South Wales participation rate, down 1 percentage point, and a 0.6 percentage point fall in the state’s unemployment rate.

“Early in the pandemic we saw large falls in participation, which we have again seen in recent lockdowns. Beyond people losing their jobs, we have also seen unemployed people drop out of the labour force,” Jarvis said.

In July 2020 when Victoria was plunged into harsh lockdowns, unemployment fell by 19,000 and then by 13,000 in the June 2021 lockdowns - but the fall in NSW in July 2021 has been far more pronounced at 27,000 people.

“Falls in unemployment and the unemployment rate may be counterintuitive, given they have coincided with falls in employment and hours, but reflect the limited ability for people to actively look for work and be available for work during lockdowns. This means that people are falling out of the labour force,” Jarvis said.

Industries in need

The Seek Job Ads Report for July found that while job ads fell 4.1 per cent around the country there are still industries that are in need of workers.

The top three industries with the most jobs ads on Seek right now are:

  • Trades and Services with roles in automotive trades, labourers, electricians, welders and boiler makers, technicians, carpentry and cabinet making, and hair and beauty services.

  • Healthcare and Medical with roles in physiotherapy, OT and rehabilitation, aged care nursing, dental, psychology, counselling and social work and general and surgical nursing.

  • Information and Communications Technology with roles for developers/ programmers, software engineers, help desk and IT support and programme and project management.

In fact, Australia is facing a shortage of at least 110,000 aged-care workers within the next decade unless urgent action is taken, a new report has found.

The report by CEDA found the shortage will balloon to over 400,000 workers by 2050 unless drastic action is taken now.

Wages remain stubbornly low

Wages rose just 0.4 per cent in the June quarter, a figure much lower than experts had anticipated, according to official figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

“The June quarter saw the rate of growth in hourly earnings ease to 0.4 per cent, following two quarters of 0.6 per cent wage growth,” said ABS head of prices statistics Michelle Marquardt.

The meagre quarterly growth comes at “one of the lowest rates recorded for the series,” she added.

“Apart from a few isolated examples of skills shortages placing pressure on employers to meet expected market rates, the private sector wage growth recorded over the quarter (0.5 per cent) was generally subdued.”

A recent report found that the modern workplace has changed, and what was once considered a workplace perk is now standard practice at many Aussie companies.

Mental health support, extended parental leave and flexible working arrangements are just some of the things now considered to be standard practice by Aussies, according to the report.

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