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SA's jobless figures nation's highest - with worst yet to come

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South Australia’s unemployment rate remains the nation’s worst after the release of March figures – with the full impact of coronavirus job cuts, business closures and social distancing regulations still to be measured.

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Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force figures for March, released today, show SA’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate climbed to 6.2 per cent, up from its already nation-topping February rate of 5.8 per cent.

The national average jobless rate for March was 5.2 per cent, up from 5.1 per cent in February.

Jobless figures across all states rose in March: Queensland recorded Australia’s second-worst figure of 5.7 per cent, followed by Western Australia on 5.4 per cent, and Victoria on 5.2 per cent, while New South Wales had the nation’s lowest rate of 4.8 per cent.

South Australia’s trend unemployment rate remained steady at 6 per cent, while the participation rate measuring those actively looking for work rose by 0.5 per cent to 62.8 per cent.

Another 3500 people found work in SA in March in seasonally adjusted terms, the second biggest number behind Victoria, while numbers fell in Western Australia and Queensland.

But the ABS flagged that April jobs figures – to be released next month – will worsen, as its survey was taken before government-imposed coronavirus restrictions saw businesses close across the country, with hundreds of thousands made jobless overnight.

Source: ABS

The ABS said its March survey did “not identify any major impact to headline statistics, with only some small early impacts evident, particularly in hours worked”.

“It is important to note that the reference period for March was 1-14 March, which was before a global pandemic was declared and before the major actions in Australia to contain the spread of the virus,” it said.

SA Innovation and Skills Minister David Pisoni said that while the pandemic’s impact on jobs was yet to be fully measured, state and federal government actions were helping to mitigate the damage.

“The latest ABS Labour Force stats reflect the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in Australia, with the survey undertaken in the first two weeks of March – so the full impacts of COVID-19 on the country’s workforce and SA’s jobs market are not yet fully reflected in these numbers,” he said.

“But there’s no doubt that the Morrison Government’s $1500 per fortnight JobKeeper payment and the Marshall Government’s $1 billion economic stimulus package, including the $650 million Jobs Rescue Package will help minimise the impacts on our state’s workforce and our nation’s workforce.

“We are in the midst of the greatest economic challenge of our time, which is why the Marshall Liberal Government is responding swiftly and decisively to ensure as many businesses and jobs as possible make it through to the other side.

“This response includes support for thousands of South Australian small businesses and not for profits who can apply for a one-off $10,000 emergency cash grant from the State Government to assist them through the impacts of the coronavirus.

“Small business is the backbone of the South Australian economy and is a huge employer, and that’s why we will do everything in our power to support as many businesses as possible to get through to the other side, and in turn, preserve as many jobs as possible.”

Property Council SA executive director Daniel Gannon said the State Government must act to get economic stimulus and projects moving.

“Now is the time for Government to double down on construction work to ensure hard hats and steel caps dominate Adelaide’s skyline,” he said.

“We need a productive pipeline of construction work to create labour-intensive job opportunities to help South Australia weather this economic storm.

 “These numbers will get higher, so this means time is of the essence to bring forward as much work as possible.”

Foreshadowing the grim jobs figures expected to come next month, March job advertisements nationally slumped by a third compared with the same time last year, as employers absorbed the shock wave of coronavirus and business closures and restrictions to limit its spread.

The number of ads on recruitment website Seek dropped across all states and territories, with hospitality and tourism jobs showing an advertising decline of 47.7 per cent.

Trades and services job ads fell by 36 per cent, followed by IT on -30.7 per cent.

In more recent data, Seek said the number of ads posted in the week ending April 12 was down by 68.6 per cent compared with the same week last year.

Victoria and NSW had the greatest drop in positions among the states – 75.1 per cent and 70.0 per cent respectively.

-with AAP

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