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UPDATE 1-Australia's unemployment rate edges up to 6.9% in Sept

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SYDNEY, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Australia’s jobless rate ticked up in September and employment declined, official data showed on Thursday, in a sign the coronavirus-ravaged economy was still struggling despite massive fiscal and monetary policy stimulus.

Australia’s jobless rate ticked up to 6.9% in September from 6.8% in August, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Employment fell by 29,500 in September, after jumping by a solid 111,000 in August.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected the unemployment rate to rise to 7.1% and employment to fall by 35,000.

Though the overall outcome is better-than-expected, the figures highlight the challenges in reviving business investment and employment, said Callam Pickering, APAC economist at global job site Indeed.

“The worst may be behind us but the challenges that await us are still greater than anything we have experienced in the past three decades,” Pickering added.

Australia’s economy is facing its first recession in 30 years as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to shut down, leaving more than a million without a job.

Earlier, Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe opened the door for further monetary easing, saying the Bank’s main priority was creating jobs to help build the “road to recovery.”

Thursday’s data showed the national underemployment rate, which includes people who have a job but are looking to work more hours, rose to 11.4%. That took the underutilisation rate, which combines the unemployment and underemployment rates, to 18.3%.

Separately, a private survey of Australia’s labour market also released on Thursday showed 1.8 million Australians, or nearly 13% of the workforce, were unemployed and a further 1.3 million were underemployed.

“This large cohort of unemployed Australians risks being frozen out of employment opportunities as businesses opt to employ younger, cheaper and less experienced workers at their expense,” said Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine.

Worryingly, the government has tapered its generous wage and employment benefits which Levine said would “force businesses to assess how many of their employees are vital to the business going forward.” (Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Tom Hogue and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)

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