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Unemployment drops to 6.8% as 90,000 workers return

Australia's latest employment figures are in. Images: Getty
Australia's latest employment figures are in. Images: Getty

The number of unemployed Australians fell to 942,100 in November as the national economy continues to reopen, taking the unemployment rate from 7.0 per cent to 6.8 per cent.

Around 90,000 people returned to work between October and November, the latest Labour Force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed, with Victoria leading the charge.

That takes unemployment to its lowest level since April, and comes after most states and territories reopened their domestic borders to NSW and Victoria.

“Employment in Victoria increased by 74,000 people in November, following last month’s increase of 82,000 people,” Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS said.

“Hours worked in Victoria also recovered strongly again, increasing by 5.2 per cent, following an increase of 5.6 per cent in October.”

While Victorians were significantly more likely to be unemployed in recent months, the ABS said that gap has reduced since September.

Jarvis said the earlier months of Covid-19 saw around 666,000 people lose work across the country, and while many have returned to work, there are still 138,000 fewer employed people than there were in March.

However, Thursday’s results are more positive than expected. Economists had tipped a 40,000 rise in employment with the unemployment rate sticking to 7.0 per cent.

Most of the new jobs (84,200) were full-time, however the youth unemployment rate increased slightly to hit 15.6 per cent - significantly higher than the broader rate.

Worse before it gets better: Jobless to hit 7.5% in 2021

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg predicts it will get worse before it gets better. Presenting the Government’s update on Thursday, he said unemployment will peak at 7.5 per cent in the March quarter of 2021.

”There is a very tough road ahead. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but there is still a very long way to go in the Australia's economic recovery.”

By mid-2022, Government modelling shows it will slide to 6.25 per cent and by mid-2023 it will hit 5.7 per cent.

Frydenberg said it will take until mid-2024 to reach levels seen before Covid-19.

“We have come a long way - a long way from Treasury's initial estimate that the unemployment rate could reach 10 per cent or 15 per cent without JobKeeper,” Frydenberg.

“This improved outlook is off the back of unprecedented levels of economic support.”

The Reserve Bank of Australia has also said it no longer believes unemployment will hit 8 per cent.

Australia’s Covid-19 unemployment peak came in June, when it hit 7.5 per cent - the worst unemployment rate in 22 years.

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