Jobless numbers fall but concern rises over weakness in economy

Queensland’s unemployment rate edged up in April to 6.1 per cent as the national rate fell to 5.5 per cent and the Palaszczuk Government blamed the end of JobKeeper.

May 20, 2021, updated May 20, 2021
Queensland's jobless rate rose slightly in December: ABC

Queensland's jobless rate rose slightly in December: ABC

Despite the fall in national unemployment, economists were suprised by the weakness in the national economy which was shown in a big drop in the participation rate, which is a measure of how many people are either working or looking for work.

It fell by 0.3 per cent nationally and 0.1 per cent in Queensland. The bigger impact was felt in the other states, particularly NSW.

The surprise from the figures was that employment numbers nationally fell by 31,000 against expectations of a rise of about 20,000.

However, economists think the economy managed to deal with the end of JobKeeper fairly well because full-time employment rose by 34,000 and underemployment fell.

A major positive in the data was youth unemployment which fell to its lowest level since the Global Financial Crisis.

In Queensland, employment fell by 7400 and the unemployment rate lifted to 6.1 per cent and the Sunshine State continues to be one of the worst-performing states for unemployment. The April data had it second last, ahead of Tasmania with Western Australia leading the way on 4.9 per cent.

Treasurer Cameron Dick said the state’s negative result in April “ran against the strong tide of recent employment data for Queensland”.

“All the data shows Queensland is in a strong position when it comes to employment growth as we continue to deliver Queensland’s plan for economic recovery,” Dick said.

“However, the April data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the abrupt end of JobKeeper was a setback.

“Since the pandemic first impacted Australia in March 2020, Queensland has seen the largest growth in jobs in Australia, with a 2.1 per cent increase, or an additional 54,900 jobs.”

Conus economist Pete Faulkner said annual employment growth in Queensland jumped to 7.8 per cent in April, from +2.4 per cent in March.

“Of the 189,600 additional employed in Queensland since April last year 98,000 (or 52 per cent) came in full-time positions,” Faulkner said.

Nationally, the figure was just 39 per cent.

The ANZ’s tracking of the state economies for the first quarter showed there had been a synchronised upswing in all states and Queensand was above trend and accelerating.

“Queensland saw a broad recovery in the first quarter from an already solid base,” the bank said.

“Consumer price inflation is running a bit stronger in Brisbane than other capital cities, at 1.7 per cent, year-on-year in the first quarter versus the national average of 1.1 per cent.

“The strength in employment – up 2.4 per centin March – is finally translating into a sharply lower unemployment rate. An 18-year high in net interstate arrivals is supporting overall demand. “Arrivals from Victoria are up 25 per cent and departures to Victoria are down 25 per cent.

“Regional tourism is still a worry. While the overnight visitor spend in the regional areas of the other five mainland states was up by 8 per cent to 45 per cent in February 2021, the visitor spend in regional Queensland was down 6 per cent, according to Tourism Research Australia.”



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