Opinion article

Labour market tracking: slow gains and the gender-split recession

In part two of CEDA's labour market tracking series, Senior Economist Gabriela D'Souza says key employment indicators show that while the Australian labour market has made gains since May, jobs growth now appears to be stalling. She also unpacks the evidence surrounding the influence of gender on the post-COVID employment results and concludes that the situation is more complicated than it first appears.  

We released our last labour market tracking piece in May, at which point the data showed a pretty bleak picture of how the Australian economy and particularly the labour market were faring. Two months on and the lagged indicators show some improvement with some jobs coming back but now momentum appears to be faltering. This is likely to be compounded by Victoria’s Stage 4 restrictions, which have resulted in approximately 250,000 workers being stood down as department stores and other retail outfits were ordered to close.

Key Indicators

Employment to population ratio

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 59.8 in July, but has improved 0.6 percentage points from June.

Unemployment rate - Australia

The unemployment rate was steady at between five and 5.2 per cent in the months leading up to the economic downturn. The latest numbers show that this has increased to 7.5 per cent in July, an increase of a tenth of a percentage point from June.

Across all states the unemployment rates have risen with Queensland and WA experiencing some of the highest unemployment rates.

Weekly jobs and wage indicators

Payroll jobs

The ABS Jobs index (with jobs indexed to 14 March 2020) shows a slowdown in jobs from late March. The month of June saw the recovery in jobs build pace but this has since lost momentum as infections in Victoria rose, and further restrictions were introduced on July 8. The next series of this data will shed more light on how the 2 August introduction of Stage 4 restrictions impacted jobs.