Between the March and April 2020 surveys, Australia experienced unprecedented change in the labour market from restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 and government support packages to mitigate its impact on individuals, households and businesses.
A growing number of people had their hours reduced or were stood down, as social distancing and other business restrictions came into effect. Social distancing rules are likely to have impacted people’s job search activities, while changes to schooling arrangements may have impacted people’s availability for work, or ability to look for work.
The introduction of the JobKeeper wage subsidy and changes to the JobSeeker program, including changes to the mutual obligations for payment recipients, will also contribute to changes in the labour market responses of people in Australia in April and later months.
Given these unique labour market conditions, the increase in the unemployed (of around 100,000) and increase in the unemployment rate (1.0 pts) only partially reflect the impact on employment. More significant were the large changes in hours worked (down by 9.2%), the participation rate (down 2.4 pts to 63.5%), the employment to population ratio (down 2.9 pts to 59.6%), the underemployment rate (up 4.9 pts to 13.7%) and the underutilisation rate (up 5.9 pts to 19.9%).
Had the increase in the number of people who were not in the labour force (489,900) been a further increase in unemployment (that is, if they had been actively looking for work and been available to work) then the number of unemployed people would have increased to around 1.3 million people, and an unemployment rate would have increased to around 9.6%.
Together these measures highlight a considerable impact on people working in Australia.