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COVID-19 claims 6% of jobs in 3 weeks

Close to 800,000 Australians were put out of a job in just three weeks following the introduction of business shutdowns and social distancing measures.

Business Jotham Lian & Aidan Curtis 22 April 2020
— 1 minute read

The new figures, sourced from the ATO’s Single Touch Payroll data in conjunction with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), found that jobs decreased by 6 per cent in the three weeks after Australia recorded its 100th confirmed COVID-19 case.


ABS labour force statistics for early March showed 13 million Australians were working before the pandemic was declared, meaning 780,000 people lost their jobs by 4 April.

A majority of the job losses came in the last week of March ending on 4 April, when the government started enforcing strict restrictions that saw the closures of a number of businesses, including pubs, cinemas and gyms.

“Looking at the week-to-week changes, the decrease in jobs in the week ending 4 April 2020 was 5.5 per cent, significantly larger than the 0.5 [of a percentage point] decrease in the week ending 28 March 2020,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.

Total wages paid by businesses also decreased by 6.7 per cent over the period.

According to the STP data, professional, scientific and technical services was the fifth most affected industry, with a 7.9 per cent drop in jobs.

Professional, scientific and technical services also recorded a total wage decrease of 8.4 per cent over the three-week period.

The accommodation and food services industry was hit the hardest, with the ABS recording a 25.6 per cent decrease in jobs and a 30.1 per cent loss of total wages.

From a state perspective, Tasmania and Victoria reportedly saw the largest decreases, with the ABS recording drops of 7.3 per cent and 6.8 per cent, respectively.

Before the pandemic

As a comparison, before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, the ABS labour force statistics had the unemployment rate holding relatively steady at 5.2 per cent.

Seasonally adjusted, this was an increase of 0.1 of a percentage point from February this year.

“Quality assurance of March data did not identify any major impact to headline statistics, with only some small early impacts evident, particularly in hours worked,” the ABS said.

“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.”

COVID-19 claims 6% of jobs in 3 weeks
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