In addition to their experiences with COVID-19 being different to Australia, there are some key differences in the approach used in the US and Canada to classify people who have been stood down and are not working for a short period, compared to Australia and other OECD countries. For further information on these differences, see Employment and Unemployment: An International perspective.
Additional estimates are provided to support more effective comparisons with the US and Canadian estimates from April to July. The differences in the treatment of stood-down workers are usually not material to cross country comparisons, but at a time of major shutdown in the economy, where large numbers of people have been stood down, they become important.
Table 1 shows that the unemployment rate in the US rose sharply between March and April (from 4.4% to 14.7%), before steadily decreasing to 10.2% July. In Canada, the unemployment rate also rose sharply between March and April (from 7.8% to 13.0%), and increased again in May. It has since fallen, from 13.7% in May to 10.9% in July.
In contrast, the official unemployment rate in Australia has continued to increase since March. However, the additional comparison rates in this article have, like in the US, been decreasing since April. For example, if people working zero hours who indicated they had been 'stood down' (Group 1) were added to the unemployed estimate, the comparative rate in Australia would have increased from 5.3% in March to 9.5% in April, before falling to 7.8% in July. Similarly, if including 'Group 2', the comparative rate in Australia would have increased from 5.4% in March to 11.8% in May, before falling to 8.3% by July.
Changes in the official participation rates were more consistent over the period, although the US and Canada both reported their lowest estimate in April, compared to May for Australia.