Australia’s unemployment rate fell to 6.6 per cent in the month of December, with nearly 13 million Aussies now back at work in another significant sign of the nation’s rebounding economy.
Between November and December, an extra 50,000 people found employment.
The number of new full-time workers that entered the workforce in December was 35,700, while 14,300 newly employed Australians found part-time work.
The underemployment rate also slid dramatically, from 9.4 per cent in November to 8.5 per cent in December.
Young Australians also found work in December, with the youth unemployment rate falling – albeit still at high levels – by 1.7 per cent to 13.9 per cent.
ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said the latest data was a sign of continued recovery in the jobs market, with part-time work leading the charge.
“Although employment has recovered 90 per cent of the fall from March to May, the recovery in part-time employment has outpaced full-time employment.
“While part-time employment was higher than March, full-time employment was 1.3 per cent below March,” he said.
The participation rose by 0.1 per cent to a new high of 66.2 per cent, according to an ABS statement.
“The rise in the participation rate reflects a net increase of around 20,000 people in the labour force in December.
“There were 108,000 more people in the labour force than in March – 196,000 more unemployed people and 88,000 fewer employed people.”
Despite the drop, The Australian Council of Trade Unions described the Morrison Government’s economic recovery efforts as “half-hearted” and said it was not doing enough.
“The recovery means nothing for the more than 2 million workers who are still looking for a job or for more hours, this Government is leaving millions of people behind,” said ACTU president Michele O’Neil.
“We have heard a lot about economic recovery, but for many Australians this is still completely out of reach.”
Several pandemic-hit industries, such as tourism, aviation and universities, are being left to struggle with little support, she added.
“A genuine recovery from the pandemic and the associated recession requires sector support, job creation and wage growth.”
The Morrison Government was also “setting working people back” by slashing the JobSeeker boost and ending the JobKeeper scheme, which is scheduled to wind down completely at the end of March.
“The wage growth crisis started years before the pandemic and looks set to continue for years afterwards. Wage stagnation for many years ahead means any recovery is meaningless for millions of Australians.”
The Australia Institute’s senior economist Matt Grudnoff shared the same sentiment, adding that there was a “long way to go” before we reach ‘normal’ and calling for more stimulus.
“Unemployment at 6.6 per cent is still far too high, as is the underutilisation rate at 15.1 per cent,” he said.
“The headline unemployment rate doesn’t tell the whole story.
“With average hours worked falling over the month, it’s clear that the government needs to invest more in our society, not cut supports when they are still needed to build our national recovery.
“More stimulus, better targeted at those Australians who have been hit the hardest by COVID-19, is needed over the short and medium term,” he added.