COVID-19 lockdowns deal a blow to Australian employment in August


  • Australia’s job scenario has taken a hit amid COVID-19 spike as 146,300 have gone out of employment net.
  • The labour participation rate has also dipped.
  • The number of hours worked also witnessed a decline.

The number of employed people in Australia decreased in the month of August 2021, on account of lockdowns imposed in the country in the face of soaring COVID-19 cases.

As many as 146,300 were out of employment net in just a month’s time as lockdowns continued to cripple the economy, according to the latest data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, said the latest data covered the first two weeks of August, which included the continued lockdown in New South Wales, new lockdowns in Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory, and a series of changes in restrictions in other parts of the country.

“Labour market changes in New South Wales continued to have a large influence on the national employment and hours worked figures. In August, there were big falls in New South Wales in both employment (173,000) and hours worked (6.5%).” Mr Jarvis said.

The huge dip in employment and hours worked in New South Wales – the state worst-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic – in August was preceded by falls in July (37,000 and 7%), with employment and hours down by 210,000 people, i.e., 13.0 per cent since the beginning of the lockdown in late June.

The national participation rate in the country also dipped 0.8 percentage points to 65.2 per cent, after a 0.2 percentage point fall in July. This was triggered by a large drop in the New South Wales participation rate, down 2.5 percentage points, following a 1 percentage point fall in the previous month.

“The large fall in the national participation rate reflects a large fall in both employment and unemployment (146,000 and 22,000) in August. The relatively large fall in unemployment, which accounted for around 13 per cent of the 168,000 person fall in the total labour force, meant that the unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage points to 4.5%,“ Mr Jarvis said.

Nationally, hours spent at work also decreased by 3.7% in August, more than the 1.1% fall in employment. This highlights the extent to which people who experienced lockdowns had reduced hours or no work, without necessarily losing their jobs.