More than 116,000 ‘missing’ from Queensland jobless data

More than 116,000 people are missing from Queensland’s unemployment data after they effectively dropped out of the job market, which has masked the real impact of the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Jun 19, 2020, updated Jun 19, 2020
Jobseekers over 55 will receive increased welfare payments (Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Jobseekers over 55 will receive increased welfare payments (Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Economist Gene Tunny said the unemployment level was more likely 10 per cent or above.

The true picture has also been clouded by the 3.5 million Australians who have received the JobKeeper subsidy at some point and who are not counted as unemployed.

Even Queensland Treasury said these factors had “muted’ the increase in unemployment.

The ABS data shows Queensland’s unemployment in May was 7.9 per cent, but Treasury points out the participation rate fell 2.7 percentage points in April to 62.8 per cent, the largest monthly decline on record. It fell a further 0.2 percentage points in May. “This equates to 116,600 people leaving the labour force in Queensland in April and May,” Treasury said.

“With persons not working but receiving JobKeeper payments from their employers classified as ’employed’ by the ABS, the reduction in hours worked is probably the clearest example of the full impact of COVID-19 social distancing measures on labour market activity.

“There were 321 million hours worked in Queensland in May 2020, down 0.1 per cent from April and down 7.6 per cent over the year.”

Treasury said the fall in jobs in May followed the largest monthly decline in employment on record in April, of 139,800 people.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said it was likely Queensland’s economy had contracted to levels similar to NSW which fell 10 per cent.

Tunny said forecasts of a June quarter GDP/GSP contraction of about 8 per cent “are looking reasonable”.

He said if the participation rate hadn’t collapsed the unemployment rate would be in double digits.

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