14/10/2021 - 11:31

WA jobless rate lowest since 2013

14/10/2021 - 11:31


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Western Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen to an eight year-low of 4.1 per cent while COVID-19 induced lockdowns have fuelled job losses in the eastern states.

WA has the lowest unemployment rate in Australia, according to the ABS. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Western Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen to an eight and a half year-low of 4.1 per cent while COVID-19 induced lockdowns have fuelled job losses in the eastern states.

A net of 3,600 Western Australians gained employment over the period with the state recording a 66 per cent employment to population ratio, second to the Northern Territory with 67.9 per cent.

“Look, these are terrific figures,” Premier Mark McGowan said.

“We have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, the strongest jobs growth, the strongest participation rate and the strongest economy in the country, perhaps the world."

“It shows that if you get COVID-19 right, if you manage it properly, you can get great economic outcomes as well.”

While the premier has welcomed WA’s record employment figures, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA says the data is concealing a workforce struggling to meet economy demands.

“In a healthy economy, businesses can keep pace with growth by drawing on a ready pool of suitably skilled workers,” CCIWA chief economist Aaron Morey said.

“Instead, WA’s economic engine is pushing the speed limit while stuck in a lower gear, put under strain by skills and worker shortages and supply chain disruptions.”

Mr Morey said there was little slack left in WA's workforce.

"There is desperate need for a pressure release valve via the only sustainable solution  — access to overseas workers."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics says a further 138,000 jobs were lost in September due to the lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

More than a quarter of million jobs have been lost in Australia in the past two months as a result of coronavirus lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

New figures show the number of people in employment in September alone fell by 138,000.

"The numbers tell us that the pandemic continues to impact the workforce extensively and this impact will continue whilst lockdowns are enforced," Employment Minister Stuart Robert told reporters on Thursday.

But he expects stronger employment results in November and December as states come out of lockdown, as seen in the past.

NSW eased restrictions on Monday, the ACT is reopening on Friday and Victoria is set to emerge from lockdown later this month. 

The national unemployment rate ticked up to 4.6 per cent in September, having unexpectedly eased to a near 13-year low of 4.5 per cent in August as a result of people giving up searching for work.

"The low national unemployment rate continues to reflect reduced participation during the recent lockdowns, rather than strong labour market conditions," Australian Bureau of Statistics head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.

The participation rate of those in work or seeking employment fell further in September to 64.5 per cent, from 65.2 per cent.

"This was the third consecutive monthly decline from the near historic high of 66.2 per cent in June 2021 and continued the pattern of large falls in participation during lockdowns," Mr Jarvis said.

The number of hours worked rose by 15 million or 0.9 per cent, a slight recovery after a large 3.7 per cent fall in August..

However, the extended lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT have seen employment and hours worked both drop back below their pre-pandemic levels. 

In September, there were 111,000 fewer employed people and two per cent fewer hours worked than in March 2020.

BIS Oxford Economics chief economist Sarah Hunter said there was unlikely to be a material improvement in the jobs data until the November figures.

"Notwithstanding the capacity for a robust recovery in the economy, it is likely to be well into 2022 before the labour market fully recovers," Dr Hunter said.

Earlier, Reserve Bank of Australia deputy governor Guy Debelle said the central bank was not seeing any material changes in wages or inflation that would pave the way for a tightening of monetary policy.

Last week, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand lifted its key interest rate, while the US Federal Reserve is mulling whether to pull back on its stimulus.

"The circumstances here in Australia ... both wages and inflation, are quite different from those we are seeing in other countries," Dr Debelle told an online conference.

Australia went into the pandemic with persistently low wage outcomes - much lower than what was being seen in comparable countries.

"COVID hasn't changed that picture," he told the CFA Australia Investment Conference.

"Yes, there are a few pockets of heightened wage pressures, but it's not widespread."

Similarly, on inflation, he said Australia is not quite experiencing some of the energy issues that have been seen elsewhere in the world, although that is flowing through to the oil price. 

And there had not yet been much impact from supply chain disruptions feeding into prices.

The RBA has persistently said it will not lift the cash rate until inflation is sustainably within the two to three per cent inflation target.

It would need to see wages growth of three per cent, compared with 1.7 per cent currently.

It does not expect these conditions to be met before 2024.


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