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SA jobs surge pushes unemployment rate to pre-COVID levels


South Australia’s unemployment rate has dropped for the third successive month to 5.7 per cent, shrugging the tag of the worst jobless rate in the nation and defying predictions of a slump in the wake of JobKeeper’s axing.

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The seasonally adjusted April figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this morning show the national unemployment rate decreased to 5.5 per cent in April from 5.7 in March.

The state’s unemployment rate fell from 6.4 per cent in March, 6.8 per cent in February and 7.1 per cent in January.

South Australia’s underemployment rate also fell from 8.6 per cent to 8.3 per cent in April, while the participation rate – the proportion of people either in the workforce or looking for a job – rose by 0.6 per cent to 62.8 per cent.

It is the state’s lowest unemployment result since just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the Australian economy in February 2020, when SA also had a jobless rate of 5.7 per cent.

The positive result is even more significant because April was the first month in a year where the jobs figures were not propped up by the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which ended on March 28. Even Treasury had forecast that up to 150,000 jobs could be lost nationally in the transition.

The turnaround in the state’s jobless rate was due to an increase in the number of South Australians in work from 848,900 in March to 864,200 in April. About 10,000 of these were full-time positions.

The number of people listed as unemployed in SA also fell from 58,200 in March to 52,400 in April on a seasonally adjusted basis.

South Australia had the worst unemployment rate in Australia from January to March but that mantle has been passed to Tasmania, which recorded an April unemployment rate of 6.2 per cent.

Queensland’s jobless rate increased by 0.1 per cent to 6.1 per cent while Victoria and NSW both recorded unemployment figures of 5.5 per cent, in line with the national average.

Western Australia (4.9 per cent), the Northern Territory (3.8 per cent) and ACT (3.4 per cent) had the lowest unemployment rates in April.

Nationally, the number of people in work fell by 30,600 in April while the number of people listed as unemployed also fell by 33,600.

Underemployment also fell from 8 per cent to 7.8 per cent. However, the participation rate across Australia fell from 66.3 per cent in March to 66 per cent in April.

The ABS said the end of JobKeeper did not have a discernible impact on employment between March and April.

“We have not seen large changes in the indicators that would suggest a clear JobKeeper impact,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.

“Some of the 31,000 fall in employment may relate to the end of JobKeeper, but it could also reflect usual month-to-month variation in the labour market and some larger than usual seasonal changes similar to those we saw earlier in the year.”

SA Minister for Innovation and Skills David Pisoni said the total number of 115.5 million hours worked in the month was the second-highest on record in South Australia.

He said the state’s economy had been performing strongly with business and consumer confidence at almost record highs.

“South Australia has weathered the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 as well as anywhere in the world, creating 53,500 jobs since the peak of the pandemic,” Pisoni said.

“There are also thousands of job opportunities for South Australians looking for work.”

Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said the figures were a welcome reprieve from months of South Australia having the worst unemployment rate in Australia.

However, he said there were still concerning signs such as SA still having the highest youth unemployment rate in Australia at 15.1 per cent and the worst participation rate on the mainland.

“Let’s hope the unemployment rate will continue to head downwards in the months ahead,” Mullighan said.

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