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Lockdowns tipped to lift jobless figures

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Economists expect today’s jobs figures to show a rise in the unemployment rate, likely to be the first of several in coming months, as the economic downturn from widespread COVID-19 lockdowns begins to hit home.

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The labour force report for July is released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Thursday, with economists forecasting a rise to five per cent unemployment from the decade low of 4.9 per cent reached in June.

If correct, it will be the first monthly increase since October last year when the rate stood at 6.9 per cent.

Economists expect the unemployment rate could reach 5.5 per cent in coming months as a result of contraction in the economy.

There is some uncertainty over how large the impact from the restrictions will have been in July, given states and territories have been in and out of lockdowns, apart from NSW.

Forecasts range from an unemployment rate rise to 5.2 per cent to an optimistic prediction of a fall to 4.5 per cent.

South Australia’s most recent unemployment figures in June showed a 5.3 per cent jobless rate – the highest in the country.

The number of people employed across the country is expected to fall by around 46,000 this month, although forecasts range from a 90,000 fall to a 20,000 rise.

Meanwhile, figures on Wednesday showed the wage price index – a key guide for wages growth used by the Reserve Bank and Treasury – rose just 0.4 per cent in the June quarter to an annual rate of 1.7 per cent.

While this was up from 1.5 per cent as of the March quarter, it remains close to the record low 1.4 per cent seen in the second half of 2020.

It is also well below the current rate of inflation at 3.8 per cent, indicating that real wages are going backwards.

South Australia had the lowest rate of private sector wage growth in the country at 1.6 per cent.

The figures were seized on by Shadow Treasurer Stephen Mullighan, who said there was “little by way of a plan” from the State Government to improve wage growth and unemployment.

“Every time Steven Marshall and Rob Lucas try to claim the economy is flying, remember South Australia has the worst jobless rate and the slowest wages growth,” he said.

“All we’re seeing is more delays to job-creating infrastructure projects and businesses crying out for more financial support to help them deal with COVID-19 restrictions.”

-with AAP

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