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Interstate lockdown jobless spike eclipses SA rise

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Large unemployment increases in locked-down Victoria and New South Wales in October have helped South Australia shrug the tag of having the nation’s highest unemployment rate – despite the state’s jobless rate increasing to 5.3 per cent.

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Australian Bureau of Statistics jobs data released this morning show Australia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased 0.6 per cent in October to 5.2 per cent, its highest level since April.

The jobless spike was driven by large unemployment increases in locked-down Victoria (up 0.9 per cent to 5.6 per cent) and New South Wales (up 0.8 per cent to 5.4 per cent), which now have the highest rates in Australia behind the ACT, which blew out 2.5 per cent to 6.6 per cent.

South Australia (up 0.2 per cent to 5.3 per cent), Queensland (up 0.3 per cent to 5.1 per cent) and Tasmania (up 0.3 per cent to 5.1 per cent) also recorded increases.

The relatively free jurisdictions of Western Australia (down 0.2 per cent to 3.9 per cent) and the Northern Territory (down 0.3 per cent to 3.9 per cent) both recorded unemployment declines to share the nation’s lowest jobless rate.

In South Australia, the number of people in work on a seasonally adjusted basis increased by 2400 on the previous month while full-time jobs increased by 3900 to a record 571,000.

However, the participation rate, which measures the number of people either in work or looking for it, increased 0.2 per cent to 63.2 per cent, resulting in a 1900-person increase in the number of unemployed in the state to 49,100.

The state’s youth unemployment rate decreased in October to 10.6 per cent from 11 per cent in September.

The national participation rate increased 0.1 per cent to 64.7 per cent while monthly hours worked reduced by 0.1 per cent and the underemployment rate increased 0.3 points to 9.5 per cent.

It was the first increase in the national participation rate since June and resulted in an 82,000 person increase in the number of people registered as unemployed nationally.

Head of labour statistics at the ABS Bjorn Jarvis said the changes in the labour markets with lockdowns continued to have a large influence on the national figures.

“The increases in unemployment show that people were preparing to get back to work, and increasingly available and actively looking for work – particularly in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory,” he said.

“This follows what we have seen towards the end of other major lockdowns, including the one in Victoria late last year.

“It may seem counterintuitive for unemployment to rise as conditions are about to improve. However, this shows how unusual lockdowns are, compared with other economic shocks, in how they limit being able to work and look for work.”

Innovation and Skills Minister David Pisoni said the record high in full-time employment in South Australia was a sign of a strong state economy.

“Full-time jobs are incredibility important for the long-term health of the economy enabling people to plan for the future, buy a home or a car and generate further jobs,” he said.

“With the South Australian border opening to NSW and Victoria in the next fortnight, the hard-hit CBD hospitality businesses will also be looking for staff to cope with the additional demand.”

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