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SA unemployment jumps, Lucas pushes for JobKeeper extension

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South Australia’s unemployment rate increased to 7.9 per cent in May, the equal second-highest rate of the Australian states and territories, with the state Treasurer calling for an extension of JobKeeper payments.

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With the full effects of the pandemic shutdown coming into force last month, Australian Bureau of Statistics data released today show the jobless rate in SA increased from 7.2 per cent in April – the highest rate in the country – to 7.9 per cent (seasonally adjusted) in May.

This was equal with Queensland, but below Western Australia which recorded the highest rate of 8.1 per cent.

It is the highest unemployment rate recorded in South Australia since July 2015.

While the State Government is hoping the May figures are nearing the peak for unemployment, Treasurer Rob Lucas fears the end of JobKeeper payments in September could see the rate surge.

He told InDaily today he was pushing for an extension of the payments for sectors that have been hit particularly hard.

The figures released today show the national unemployment rate increased from 6.4 per cent in April to 7.1 per cent last month.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics

South Australia’s jobless rate was at 5.7 per cent in January and February, before the pandemic hit in March, leading to widespread business shutdowns and job losses.

While the Federal Government’s JobKeeper payments have allowed many people to maintain a connection with their employer, today’s figures indicate a falling percentage of people in the employment market.

South Austraia’s participation rate, which measures the percentage of people either employed or looking for work, fell from 60.7 per cent in April to 60.3 per cent in May.

Nationally, there are nearly 800,000 fewer people in jobs compared to same time in 2019.

The ABS said that, compared to a year ago, there were 237,900 fewer people employed full-time and 457,700 fewer people employed part-time in May.

Lucas said the national and local result was “clearly the impact of COVID”, but was hopeful that the economy was now seeing the unemployment peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’d obviously be hopeful the federal Treasury’s estimates are correct and our peaks may not be as high [as previously predicted],” he told InDaily.

He said the earlier-than-expected easing of restrictions had helped shift the economy into gear, warning either a second wave or the cessation of the Commonwealth’s JobKeeper subsidy in September could herald another unemployment surge.

“The more restrictions are eased nationally, the more business is being done, the less the impact of JobKeeper being removed will be,” he said.

“That will be the next test.”

He said the Marshall Government was pushing for the continuation of JobKeeper in some form for sectors hit particularly hard.

“Some version of JobKeeper should continue post-September,” he said.

“We’ve been [pushing] and continue to do so – we think there will be the need for some version of JobKeeper… for the significantly-impacted industries post-September.”

He cited tourism and related industries including “some parts of hospitality” among those.

“If you don’t have international travel, tourism-related industries are going to require ongoing assistance,” he said.

Lucas said the true extent of the impact would be felt in the number of working hours lost, suggesting underemployment was also wreaking havoc on the economy.

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