Job losses spike as JobKeeper exceeds capacity
Close to 600,000 Australians lost their jobs in April despite the JobKeeper scheme exceeding its projected enrolment coverage.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has now released its labour force statistics for April, revealing that 594,300 jobs were lost, increasing the unemployment rate to 6.5 per cent.
Australia’s underutilisation rate, which combines the unemployment and underemployment rates, rose to “a record high” of 19.9 per cent.
“The large drop in employment did not translate into a similar-sized rise in the number of unemployed people because around 489,800 people left the labour force,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.
“This means there was a high number of people without a job who didn’t or couldn’t actively look for work, or weren’t available for work.”
The new statistics followed news that the number of employees now covered under the government’s $130 billion JobKeeper payment had exceeded the Treasury’s original 6 million estimate.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the June review of the JobKeeper scheme might now include some amendments, despite having shot down suggestions that the scheme would be wound back earlier than expected.
“This is a tough day for Australia, a very tough day,” Mr Morrison said.
“When you’re running a program that is asking of taxpayers more than $20 billion a month, that’s a big load, but Australians are carrying it, and they’re carrying it for their fellow Australians.
“When you move a program as quickly as this, then you anticipate that there will be some anomalies and issues that need to be addressed along the way and we’ve been doing that and the Treasurer has been doing that, and the review will take into account those issues as we move forward.”
The ABS also noted a sharp reduction in the number of hours work due to the pandemic, with a fall of 9.2 per cent in total hours worked.
Approximately 2.7 million people, or one in five people employed in March, either left employment or had their hours reduced between March and April, according to the ABS.
The ABS said the falls in employment and hours in April were consistent with the fall in payroll jobs for employers reporting through the Single Touch Payroll system.