Opinion article

Labour market tracking: first COVID-19 impacts hit young people hardest

In the first in a regular series on the Australian labour market for CEDA's Recovery: coming back better project, CEDA Senior Economist, Gabriela D'Souza, shows that COVID-19 is already having a significant impact on the labour market, particularly among young people.

  • COVID-19 and resulting social restrictions have already had a dramatic impact on the labour market. This is most evident in indicators like hours worked, which fell 9.2 per cent in just one month, a much larger fall over a shorter period than previous recessions.
  • The unemployment rate has not risen as much as expected, increasing one percentage point over the last month. This is due to many workers being classified as employed while receiving JobKeeper. In addition, many people have stopped looking for work with the participation rate dropping 2.5 percentage points.
  • Industries such as accommodation and food services and arts and recreation have been the most adversely impacted to date. The concentrated impact in these industries has seen young people and women suffering most. For example, the number of young people in full time education and part-time work fell back to 2015 levels. Hours worked by women fell 11.5 per cent in April compared to 7.5 per cent for men.

Key indicators

Employment rates in Australia

The employment rate shows the number of people employed divided by those who are in the working age population (those aged between 15-64). Department of Employment (DESE) estimates of the employment numbers registered a fall from 74 percent in March to 71 percent in April.

The employment to population ratio is an estimate of the utilisation of the human resources in the economy. It is expressed as the number of people employed divided by the total population of the country. This fell from 62.2 in March to 59.6 in April.

Unemployment rate - Australia

The unemployment rate was steady at between five and 5.2 percent in the months leading up to the economic downturn. The latest numbers show that this has increased to 6.2 per cent in April.