COVID-19: Labour market impacts on key demographic groups, industries and regions

23 October 2020

PDF version [480KB]

Geoff Gilfillan
Statistics and Mapping Section

Introduction

The restrictions imposed by Federal, State and Territory Governments to limit the spread of COVID-19 have had different labour market impacts across demographic groups, industries and regions.

This paper draws on the results of two Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data series that shed light on the extent of the impact of COVID-19 on the Australian labour market. The two data series are the Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia series (which had its first release on 4 April 2020) and the long established Labour Force survey. The Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages series shows percentage changes in jobs and wages for employees whereas the Labour Force series captures change in the number of people that are employed, unemployed or not in the labour force.

Contents

Introduction

Executive Summary

Impact on jobs and wages

Change in jobs and wages by age
Table 1: percentage change in jobs and wages by age, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Change in jobs and wages by gender
Table 2: percentage change in jobs and wages by gender, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Change in jobs by firm size
Table 3: percentage change in jobs and wages by firm size, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Change in jobs and wages by industry
Table 4: percentage change in jobs and wages by industry, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Change in jobs and wages by state/territory
Table 5: percentage change in jobs and wages by state/territory, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Change in jobs by region
Table 6: percentage change in payroll jobs, 14 March to 3 October 2020

Impact on employment, unemployment, participation and hours worked

Employment by age
Chart 1: change in employment by age, March to September 2020
Unemployment by age
Chart 2: change in unemployment by age, March to September 2020
Chart 3: change in unemployment rates by age, March to September 2020
Labour market impacts by gender
Chart 4: change in key labour market indicators by gender, March to September 2020
Table 7: change in full-time and part-time employment by gender, March to September 2020
Hours worked by gender
Chart 5: hours worked by gender, March to September 2020
Chart 6: percentage change in monthly hours worked by gender, March to September 2020
Change in employment by state and territory
Chart 7: change in employment by state/territory, March to September 2020
Change in unemployment rates by state and territory
Chart 8: unemployment rate by state/territory, March to September 2020
Change in labour force participation by state and territory
Chart 9: change in participation rates for states and territories, May to September 2020
Impact on industries
Table 8: change in employment by industry, February to August 2020
Impact on casual and permanent employees and owner managers
Table 9: change in permanent and casual employees, February to August 2020
Chart 10: change in employees and owner managers, March to August 2020
Impact on numbers of people receiving unemployment benefits
Table 10: JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (Other) recipients, March and August 2020

 

Executive Summary

The various data sources available show since restrictions were put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020:

  • Job loss has been greatest in percentage terms in Accommodation and food services and Arts and recreation services.
  • People aged 20 to 29 years and those aged 60 years or more have been impacted the most in terms of job loss.
  • Workers aged 40 years and over have experienced greater loss of wages.
  • Employment loss and increases in unemployment has been greatest for those aged 20 to 34 years.
  • The outcomes are less clear for people aged under 20 years with one data source showing growth in jobs and another source showing a decline in employment.
  • Men have been affected slightly more than women in terms of rate of job loss and decline in numbers of employed, but much more affected in terms of rate of wages loss and change in numbers of underemployed.
  • Casual workers accounted for a significant share of the decline in employees.
  • Full-time workers have been affected far more in terms of employment loss than part-time workers.
  • There has been little change in the number of business operators but a substantial decrease in employees of private and public enterprises.
  • Men and younger people experienced larger increases in unemployment beneficiaries.

Impact on jobs and wages

The ABS  Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia series shows the change in the number of paid payroll jobs in the economy as well as the change in total wages paid by employing enterprises. The series picks up changes in the labour market since 14 March 2020 when Australia recorded its 100th confirmed case of COVID-19.

The data series draws on Single Touch Payroll (STP) data provided to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) by businesses that have STP-enabled payroll or accounting software and is collected fortnightly when businesses run their payroll. The data enables identification of age, sex, industry and region of employees engaged in paid jobs. Employees can hold multiple jobs but each job is counted separately. Data is not available on whether employees work full-time or part-time or whether they are employed on a casual or permanent basis.

The STP data captures the activities of 99 per cent of medium and larger enterprises (those employing 20 people or above) and around 71 per cent of small businesses (employing less than 20 people) who were reporting through the STP system. Some small businesses have been granted concessions to enable a longer transition period to mandatory STP reporting. Given the series is not capturing all jobs in the Australian labour market, an index is used by the ABS to enable measurement of percentage changes over time rather than providing estimates of change in the number of jobs or value of wages.[1]

The advantage of the STP series is the data is available fortnightly rather than monthly as is the case for the ABS Labour Force survey. This has enabled more timely releases of information which can highlight recovery, deterioration or stability in the labour market. It should be emphasised that the STP data refers to change in jobs and wages whereas the Labour Force survey data refers to the number of people that are employed, unemployed or not in the labour force.

Change in jobs and wages by age

People aged 20 to 29 years and 60 years and over have been more heavily impacted by COVID-19 compared with other age groups in terms of job loss (see table 1). People aged 70 years or more experienced the largest reduction in payroll jobs (down 12.1%) between 14 March 2020 and 3 October 2020, followed by those aged 60 to 69 years (down 6.4%) and people aged 20 to 29 years (down 6.1%). In contrast, younger people aged under 20 years experienced jobs growth of 6.1%—possibly due to the attraction of lower costs of hiring younger workers. People aged 20 to 29 years accounted for 20.8 per cent of all employed people in September 2020, those aged 60 years and over accounted for 10.9% and those aged 15 to 19 years accounted for 4.8%.[2]

Wages fell more substantially for people aged 40 years and over in the six and a half months to early October. Wages for people aged 40 to 49 years were 4.5% lower. And wages for those aged 50 to 59 years and 60 to 69 years fell by 4.9% and 7.2% respectively. The wage and job loss outcome for older people is likely to be particularly concerning for those trying to build up their savings as they near retirement.

Table 1: percentage change in jobs and wages by age, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Age Payroll jobs Total wages
19 September
to 3 October
14 March to 3
October
19 September
to 3 October
14 March to 3
October
Under 20 2.8% 6.1% 1.1% 29.6%
20 to 29 years -0.8% -6.1% -1.2% 0.7%
30 to 39 years -1.1% -3.6% -2.3% -2.6%
40 to 49 years -1.0% -2.7% -3.2% -4.5%
50 to 59 years -0.7% -2.8% -2.3% -4.9%
60 to 69 years -0.9% -6.4% -1.4% -7.2%
70 years plus -1.9% -12.1% -2.5% -8.3%
All persons -0.9% -4.1% -2.2% -3.3%

Source: ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001

Wages increased significantly for workers aged under 20 years in the six months to early October (up 29.6%). This wage outcome could be partly due to access to a flat fortnightly rate of $1,500 for the JobKeeper Payment for all employees stood down, regardless of age and previous hours of work. Employees also needed to have been with their employer for 12 months or more.[3] The JobKeeper payment was made available to businesses and organisations experiencing a substantial decline in revenue due to COVID-19 restrictions. Many workers aged 20 years and under would have been earning less than the JobKeeper Payment rate (in lower paid part-time casual jobs) prior to being stood down.[4]

Change in jobs and wages by gender

Job loss for males was slightly higher than jobs loss for females between 14 March and 3 October—at 5.0% compared with 4.2%. But wage loss for men was far greater—down 5.6% compared with a loss of 0.4% for women (see table 2). The gender difference in wage outcomes is partly due to men having a much greater likelihood of working full-time hours than women in the pre-COVID-19 environment. Full-time workers stood down would experience a much bigger reduction in hours worked than part-time workers. A contributing factor to the lower rate of wage loss for women is women were more likely to have lost jobs that were part-time and lower paid compared with the loss of full-time jobs for men[5]

Table 2: percentage change in jobs and wages by gender, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Gender Payroll jobs Total wages
19 September
to 3 October
14 March to 3
October
19 September
to 3 October
14 March to 3
October
Males -1.1% -5.0% -2.3% -5.6%
Females -0.9% -4.2% -2.3% -0.4%
All persons -0.9% -4.1% -2.2% -3.3%

Source: ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001

Change in jobs by firm size

On average, across industry sectors, employees of small and medium sized firms have borne the brunt of job loss in the six and a half months to early October (down 6.3% and 6.9% respectively). In comparison jobs fell by only 1.6% for large businesses (see table 3). Part of the explanation for the difference in rates of job loss is small and medium businesses are more likely to employ casual workers.[6] Casual employees accounted for three quarters of the fall in employees between February and August 2020.[7]

Table 3: percentage change in jobs and wages by firm size, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Firm size Payroll jobs
19 September to 3 October 14 March to 3 October
Small (under 20 employees) -2.6% -6.3%
Medium (20 to 199 employees) -1.2% -6.9%
Large (200 employees plus) 0.1% -1.6%
All firms -0.9% -4.1%

Source: ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001

The largest job loss in small businesses over the six and a half months to early October was recorded in Victoria (down 11.0%), New South Wales (down 6.6%), and Tasmania (down 5.6%).

Change in jobs and wages by industry

Industries most heavily affected by trading restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19 such as Accommodation and food services and Arts and recreation services were also the most affected by job loss between 14 March and 3 October (down 17.4% and 12.9% respectively) (see table 4).

Table 4: percentage change in jobs and wages by industry, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Industry Payroll jobs Total wages
19
September
to 3 October
14 March
to 3
October
19
September to 3
October
14 March
to 3
October
Agriculture, forestry & fishing -2.3% -8.1% -2.0% -3.5%
Mining -0.4% -2.1% 8.3% -6.4%
Manufacturing -0.2% -3.6% 0.6% -6.2%
Electricity, gas, water & waste services -3.7% -2.1% -6.8% 2.4%
Construction -1.7% -5.4% -1.2% -7.0%
Wholesale trade -0.8% -4.5% -0.1% -9.6%
Retail trade -0.8% -4.1% 0.0% -2.3%
Accommodation & food services 0.4% -17.4% -2.5% -13.0%
Transport, postal & warehousing -1.0% -6.1% 1.3% -4.6%
Information media & telecommunications -1.7% -9.5% -16.5% -5.6%
Financial & insurance services 0.0% 2.2% -22.8% -3.9%
Rental, hiring & real estate services -1.0% -6.3% -0.2% -0.3%
Professional, scientific & technical services -2.3% -4.7% -1.0% -5.1%
Administrative & support services -1.1% -5.1% -1.2% -2.7%
Public administration & safety -1.3% 2.4% 0.7% 0.3%
Education & training 0.8% -2.4% 0.1% 0.2%
Health care & social assistance -1.0% 0.8% -0.4% 3.1%
Arts & recreation services -1.2% -12.9% -0.9% -7.9%
Other services -1.9% -5.6% -1.9% 1.6%
All industries -0.9% -4.1% -2.2% -3.3%

Source: ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001

In contrast, some industries were able to expand slightly in terms of job growth despite the restrictions including Public administration and safety (up 2.4%), Financial and insurance services (up 2.2%) and Health care and social assistance (up 0.8%). The rate of job loss in Accommodation and food services was similar for females and males (down 19.1% and 19.0% respectively). In Arts and recreation services job loss was slightly higher for females (down 13.5%) compared with males (down 12.1%). Job loss in both industries was highest for those aged 20 to 29 years (down 24.4% and 15.9% respectively).[8] In the fortnight to 3 October jobs growth was only experienced in two industries—Education and training and Accommodation and food services (up 0.8% and 0.4% respectively).

Wage falls in the six and a half months to early October was most significant in Accommodation and food services (down 13.0%), followed by Wholesale trade (down 9.6%) and Arts and recreation (down 7.9%). Moderate growth in wages was recorded in Health care and social assistance (up 3.1%) and Electricity, gas and water (up 2.4%). In the fortnight to 3 October 2020 very large falls in wages were recorded in Financial and insurance services (down 22.8%) and Information, media and telecommunications (down 16.5%). The 8.3% increase in wages in the mining industry could be influenced by seasonal bonuses.[9]

Change in jobs and wages by state/territory

Job loss has been more pronounced in the state of Victoria in the six and a half months to early October (down 7.7%) (see table 5). Tasmania and New South Wales recorded the biggest falls in wages (down 4.9% and 4.8% respectively). Western Australia experienced the smallest rate of job loss (at 1.0%)—possibly due the continued strength of the mining industry, less dependence on service industries and easing of restrictions on service industries earlier than some other jurisdictions. South Australia recorded no change in total wages despite a 2.5% fall in payroll jobs. All jurisdictions recorded a fall in jobs in the fortnight to 3 October.

Table 5: percentage change in jobs and wages by state/territory, 14 March to 3 October 2020
State/territory Payroll jobs Total wages
19 September
to 3 October
14 March to 3
October
19 September
to 3 October
14 March to 3
October
New South Wales -0.8% -3.6% -4.5% -4.8%
Victoria -0.9% -7.7% -1.4% -4.2%
Queensland -1.0% -2.5% -1.4% -0.9%
South Australia -0.7% -2.5% -1.1% 0.0%
Western Australia -1.0% -1.0% 0.4% -2.1%
Tasmania -1.0% -4.5% -2.3% -4.9%
Northern Territory -1.2% -2.1% -0.9% -1.4%
Australian Capital Territory -0.9% -4.3% -1.4% -2.5%
Australia -0.9% -4.1% -2.2% -3.3%

Source: ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001

Change in jobs by region

Table 6 shows where the ten largest and smallest decreases in jobs have occurred in regions of Australia between 14 March and 3 October (at the Statistical Area 4 (SA4) level).

Table 6: percentage change in payroll jobs, 14 March to 3 October 2020
Regions (SA4s) Payroll jobs
14 March to 3 October
Largest decreases  
  Melbourne – Inner -10.1%
  Melbourne – North West -8.5%
  Melbourne — South East -8.3%
  Melbourne – Inner South -8.2%
  Mornington Peninsula (Vic) -8.1%
  Latrobe – Gippsland (Vic) -7.9%
  Melbourne - West -7.8%
  Melbourne — Inner East -7.6%
  Sydney – City and Inner South -7.6%
  North West Victoria -7.3%
Smallest decreases  
  Perth – South West -1.5%
  Bunbury (WA) -1.6%
  Illawarra (NSW) -1.9%
  Newcastle and Lake Macquarie (NSW) -2.0%
  Mandurah  (WA) -2.0%
  Perth – North East -2.1%
  Perth – North West -2.1%
  Central Queensland -2.2%
  Perth – South East) -2.2%
  Hunter Valley exc Newcastle (NSW) -2.3%
All regions -4.1%

Source: ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001

Regions within metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria account for a substantial proportion of the regions experiencing the largest loss of jobs between mid-March and early October 2020. Parts of metropolitan Perth and regions within non-metropolitan WA and NSW account for the majority of SA4s experiencing the smallest falls in jobs.

Impact on employment, unemployment, participation and hours worked

ABS Labour Force survey data shows people in younger age groups have been the most affected by restrictions imposed to combat the spread of COVID-19, with larger decreases in employment and larger increases in unemployment than people in other age groups.

Employment by age

Employment for people aged 25 to 34 years fell by 157,300 (or 5.1%) while employment for people aged 15 to 24 years fell by 149,600 (or 7.7%). There have been signs of a modest recovery in employment for those aged 15 to 24 years more recently with an increase of 31,600 in the two months to September 2020. But there have been less signs of an improvement in employment outcomes for people aged 25 to 34 years (up 5,400) (see chart 1).

In contrast to the STP data that showed a 6.1% increase in jobs for those aged under 20 years in the six and a half months to early October, ABS Labour Force survey data shows employment for those aged 15 to 19 years fell by 79,200 (or 11.5%) between March and September.

It is not immediately clear as to why these estimates are moving in different directions but it has been established that young people are more likely to be multiple job holders[10] which may be influencing the growth in jobs shown in the STP estimates.

Chart 1: change in employment by age, March to September 2020

Change in employment by age, March to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted

Unemployment by age

People aged 25 to 34 years recorded the biggest increase in unemployment between March and September 2020 (up 78,500 or 50.9%) with only a very small decline (of 2,600) in the most recent two months (see chart 2).

Young people aged 15 to 24 years experienced the next biggest increase in unemployment (up 47,600 or 18.7%) in the six months to September 2020 but recorded a substantial fall in unemployment in the past two months (down 41,300 or 12.0%).

Total unemployment in Australia reached just over 1 million for the first time in July 2020, but has since fallen to 937,400 in September.[11] Total unemployment is up by 221,600 (or 31.0%) since March.

Chart 2: change in unemployment by age, March to September 2020

Change in unemployment by age, March to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted

In the period between March and September 2020 people aged 15 to 24 years experienced the largest increase in their unemployment rate (up 2.9 percentage points to 14.5%) followed by those aged 25 to 34 years (up 2.6 percentage points to 7.3%) (see chart 3).

Chart 3: change in unemployment rates by age, March to September 2020

Change in unemployment rates by age, March to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted

Labour market impacts by gender

Chart 4 shows men recorded a larger fall in employment than women in the six months to September 2020, a larger increase in the number of unemployed and a much bigger increase in underemployment.[12] In the two months to September, women experienced a larger rebound in employment than men, a larger fall in unemployment than men, and a small contraction in underemployment compared with an increase for men.

Chart 4: change in key labour market indicators by gender, March to September 2020

Change in key labour market indicators by gender, March to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted

Employment for men fell by 230,600 (or 3.4%) between March and September 2020 while employment for women fell by 194,400 (or 3.2%). Unemployment for men increased by 125,800 (or 32.8%) which compares with a 95,800 increase for women (or 28.8%). Men recorded a much bigger increase in underemployment—up 242,300 (or 46.7%)—compared with an increase of 87,000 (or 12.6%) for women.

A larger drop in full-time employment compared with part-time employment was recorded nationally between March and September 2020 (down 331,100 (or 3.7%) and 93,900 (or 2.3%) respectively). Total employment across the economy fell by 425,100 or 3.3%. [13]Men and women were affected differently with men experiencing a slightly larger percentage fall in full-time employment (a fall of 4.0% compared with a fall of 3.4%) than women and women recording a larger fall in part-time employment than men (a fall of 2.9% compared with a fall of 0.9%) (see table 7).

Table 7: change in full-time and part-time employment by gender, March to September 2020
  Full-time Part-time Total
Males      
March 2020 (‘000) 5 531.7 1 315.8 6 847.5
September 2020 (‘000) 5 312.6 1 304.3 6 616.8
Change – March to September 2020      
     ‘000 -219.1 -11.5 -230.6
     % -4.0 -0.9 -3.4
Females      
March 2020 (‘000) 3 339.7 2 809.8 6 149.5
September 2020 (‘000) 3 227.7 2 727.4 5 955.1
Change – March to September 2020      
     ‘000 -112.0 -82.4 -194.4
     % -3.4 -2.9 -3.2
Total      
March 2020 (‘000) 8 871.4 4 125.6 12 997.0
September 2020 (‘000) 8 540.3 4 031.7 12 571.9
Change – March to September 2020      
     ‘000 -331.1 -93.9 -425.1
     % -3.7 -2.3 -3.3

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat no 62020, Table 1.

Hours worked by gender

Chart 5 plots the number of hours worked by males and females from March to September 2020 including the big drop hours in worked in April, a smaller fall in May and a slow recovery since.

Chart 5: hours worked by gender, March to September 2020

Hours worked by gender, March to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted

Chart 6 shows women experienced a more substantial fall in April 2020 (down 12.0% for women and 7.7% for men) but have experienced a slightly higher monthly percentage increase in hours worked than men in all months since apart from September 2020.

Chart 6: percentage change in monthly hours worked by gender, March to September 2020

Percentage change in monthly hours worked by gender, March to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted

Average weekly hours worked by men has fallen from 38.0 hours in March 2020 to 37.1 hours in September (a fall of 2.4%) while average weekly hours worked by women has fallen from 30.0 hours per week to 29.6 hours (a fall of 1.2%).[14]

There were 903,500 people who worked fewer than their usual hours for economic reasons [15]in September 2020, which compares with 1,781,500 in April—a fall of 878,000 or almost one half.[16]

There have been substantial monthly swings in the numbers of people working zero hours in the six months to September 2020—increasing by 690,400 in April following the imposition of trading restrictions in March (to 766,900). This was followed by a fall in the number of people working zero hours of just under 400,000 in May as some people who were stood down returned to work. The number of people working zero hours was last recorded at 198,700 in September which compares with 76,500 in March before the restrictions were introduced.[17]

Since July, in all states and territories except Victoria, the number of people working zero hours for economic reasons has remained relatively steady or decreased slightly. In Victoria, the number of people working zero hours for economic reasons almost doubled between July and August. Victoria accounted for almost 60% of people working zero hours for economic reasons in September 2020.[18]

Change in employment by state and territory

Victoria has been by far the hardest hit jurisdiction in terms of loss of employment (at 218,800) between March and September 2020, followed by New South Wales (down 95,000).

Chart 7: change in employment by state/territory, March to September 2020

Change in employment by state/territory, March to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted for the states and original data for the two territories

National employment fell to just over 12.1 million in May 2020. Since May there has been a strong recovery in employment in New South Wales (up 173,800), Queensland (up 160,400) and Western Australia (up 75,900). In contrast employment fell in Victoria (down 20,900) and the Northern Territory (down 4,500). The decline in employment in Victoria is directly related to strict lockdown procedures enforced to counter a second wave of COVID-19 infections. The falling employment outcome for the Northern Territory is likely to be related to a decline in domestic and international tourism activity as well as a combination of other factors. International visitor numbers were down 21% in the Northern Territory in 2019-20 compared with the previous financial year.[19] Domestic visitors to the Northern Territory were down 18% in 2019-20 compared with the previous financial year and domestic tourist spending was down 26%.[20]

Change in unemployment rates by state and territory

Chart 8 shows the unemployment rate for each state and territory for March, July and September 2020. Between July and September the unemployment rate in New South Wales and Victoria has remained relatively stable. In the same time period the unemployment rate fell substantially in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT, but increased in Tasmania. Movements in the unemployment rate for the territories and smaller states (such as Tasmania) are much more volatile from month to month compared with larger jurisdictions. However, it is notable that the participation rate in Tasmania has been rising steadily between May and September (up from 57.4% to 61.1%) which has contributed to a higher unemployment rate in the state as entrants into the labour market have found it harder to find work in the current economic environment.

Chart 8: unemployment rate by state/territory, March to September 2020

Unemployment rate by state/territory, March to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted for the states and original data for the two territories

Change in labour force participation by state and territory

Labour force participation is another indicator that can shed light on the health of the economy. An increasing participation rate is a sign of confidence within job seekers that they can enter the labour market and find work. The labour force participation rate in Australia fell to 62.7% in May 2020 which compares with 65.9% in March. Since May the labour force participation rate has increased nationally to 64.8% in September.

Chart 9 shows the extent of changes in labour force participation rates in the state and territories since May. All states and territories apart from Victoria and the Northern Territory have been characterised by increasing participation rates.

Chart 9: change in participation rates for states and territories, May to September 2020

Change in participation rates for states and territories, May to September 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 22, seasonally adjusted for the states and original data for the two territories

Impact on industries

Table 8 shows the impacts of restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment by industry in Australia. Note that the data available has a starting month of February—prior to restrictions being imposed—and the latest data available is for August 2020.

The industries most affected by employment loss were Accommodation and food services (down 18.2%), Arts and recreation services (down 17.9%), Other services (down 11.3%), Administrative and support services (down 11.1%) and Information, media and telecommunications and Transport, postal and warehousing (both down 8.2%).

In contrast, some industries are faring much better and are even expanding. For example, employment in Electricity, gas, water and waste services increased by 15,100 (or 11.1%) between February and August, while employment increased in Agriculture, forestry and fishing by 22,400 (or 6.6%)—driven in part by improvement in climatic conditions.

Other industries experiencing employment growth included Wholesale trade (up 4.2%), Public administration and safety (up 3.9%), Financial and insurance services (up 1.6%), Education and training (up 1.3%) and Mining and Rental, hiring and real estate services (both up 0.7%).

Table 8: change in employment by industry, February to August 2020
Industry February
2020
August 2020 Change — February to
August 2020
‘000 ‘000 ‘000 %
Agriculture, forestry & fishing 337.5 359.9 22.4 6.6
Mining 238.9 240.5 1.6 0.7
Manufacturing 909.6 843.9 -65.7 -7.2
Electricity, gas, water & waste services 136.2 151.3 15.1 11.1
Construction 1 182.4 1 152.4 -30.0 -2.5
Wholesale trade 386.0 402.1 16.1 4.2
Retail trade 1 261.1 1 196.7 -64.4 -5.1
Accommodation & food services 929.8 760.7 -169.1 -18.2
Transport, postal & warehousing 667.1 612.5 -54.6 -8.2
Information media & telecommunications 211.7 194.2 -17.4 -8.2
Financial & insurance services 474.8 482.4 7.6 1.6
Rental, hiring & real estate services 213.9 215.4 1.5 0.7
Professional, scientific & technical services 1 172.7 1 118.5 -54.2 -4.6
Administrative & support services 450.2 400.2 -50.0 -11.1
Public administration & safety 829.6 862.0 32.3 3.9
Education & training 1 097.6 1 111.7 14.1 1.3
Health care & social assistance 1 800.1 1 772.4 -27.7 -1.5
Arts & recreation services 251.9 206.7 -45.2 -17.9
Other services 493.2 437.6 -55.6 -11.3
All industries 13 044.3 12 521.1 -523.2 -4.0

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6291.0.55.003, Table 04 (original data)

Employment loss for women working in Accommodation and food services was slightly higher than employment loss for men. Employment in the sector for women fell by 94,400 (or 18.4%) between February and August 2020 which compares with loss of employment of 74,700 (or 18.0%) for men.

For men employment loss was highest in Accommodation and food services, followed by Transport, postal and warehousing (down 70,400 or 13.2%), Construction (down 50,600 or 4.9%), and Manufacturing (down 48,400 or 7.5%). For women employment loss was greatest in Accommodation and food services, followed by Retail trade (down 56,900 or 8.0%); Professional, scientific and technical services (down 53,600 or 10.3%); and Administrative and support services (down 36,500 or 16.0%). Men recorded much smaller falls in employment than women in Retail trade (down 7,500 or 1.4%) and Professional, scientific and technical services (down 500 or 0.1%)[21]

Impact on casual and permanent employees and owner managers

The impact of imposing trading restrictions to restrict the transmission of COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on casual employees (or employees without paid leave entitlements). Casual employees account for a large proportion of all employees working in service industries which were among the most heavily impacted by the restrictions in terms of employment loss.[22]

The number of casual employees fell by 339,800 (or 12.9%) between February and August 2020 while the number of permanent employees (or employees with paid leave entitlements) fell by 125,600 (or 1.5%) (see table 9).

Impacts have been significant for casual employees working both full-time (down 160,600 or 18.2%) and part-time (down 179,100 or 10.3%). In contrast, the number of permanent employees working part-time increased by 107,400 (or 6.7%. However, the number of permanent employees working full-time fell by 233,000 or 3.5%.

Total employees (permanent and casual) working full-time fell by 393,600 (or 5.2%) between February and August while total part-time employees fell by 71,800 (or 2.1%).

Table 9: change in permanent and casual employees, February to August 2020
Form of employment Feb-2020 Aug-2020 Change — Feb to August 2020
‘000 ‘000 000 %
Employees - full-time 7 532.1 7 138.5 -393.6 -5.2
Employees - part-time 3 354.4 3 282.6 -71.8 -2.1
Permanent employees - total 8 259.3 81 33.7 -125.6 -1.5
Permanent employees - full-time 6 651.5 6 418.5 -233.0 -3.5
Permanent employees - part-time 1 607.8 17 15.2 107.4 6.7
Casual employees - total  627.2 2 287.4 -339.8 -12.9
Casual employees - full-time 880.6 720.0 -160.6 -18.2
Casual employees - part-time 1 746.5 1567.4 -179.1 -10.3
Total employees 10 886.5 10 421.1 -465.4 -4.3

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6291.0.55.003, Table 13 (original data)

While employees of public and private employers have experienced a substantial decline in employment between March and August 2020 (down 482,600) there appears to have been little impact on owner managers of incorporated enterprises (down 10,300), while the number of owner managers of unincorporated enterprises has grown slightly (up 7,300) (see chart 10).

Owner managers of incorporated enterprises are defined as people who work in their own incorporated enterprise, that is, a business entity which is registered as a separate legal entity to its members or owners (may also be known as a limited liability company). Owner managers of unincorporated enterprises are people who operate their own unincorporated enterprise or engage independently in a profession or trade.[23]

Chart 10: change in employees and owner managers, March to August 2020

Change in employees and owner managers, March to August 2020

Source: ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6291.0.55.003, Table 08 (original data)

Impact on numbers of people receiving unemployment benefits

Young people were the most heavily affected in terms of increases in numbers of people receiving unemployment benefits following the imposition of trading restrictions in March 2020 to combat the spread of COVID-19. Between March and August 2020:

  • The number of people receiving unemployment benefits that were aged under 25 years and 25 to 34 years more than doubled (up 102.2% and 122.0% respectively).
  • All age groups experienced significant increases in people receiving unemployment benefits including those in older age groups.
  • Men were affected more than women, with a 90.4% increase in men receiving benefits to 870,143, compared with a 75.7% increase for women to 754,126.
  • The total number of Australians receiving JobSeeker Allowance or Youth Allowance (Other) increased from 886,213 to 1,624,269 (up 808,056 or 83.3%) (see table 10).
Table 10: JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (Other) recipients, March and August 2020
By Age Group Females Males Total
March 2020 August 2020 Change:
 March
to
August
March 2020 August 2020 Change:  
March
to
August
March 2020 August 2020 Change:  
March
to
August
Under 25 72 919 147 580 102.4% 89 047 179 919 102.0% 161 966 327 499 102.2%
25-34 63 062 146 930 133.0% 103 021 221 705 115.2% 166 083 368 635 122.0%
35-44 79 912 137 721 72.3% 87 568 166 914 90.6% 167 480 304 635 81.9%
45-54 97 971 152 860 56.0% 82 462 145 866 76.9% 180 433 298 726 65.6%
55-64 103 038 151 714 47.2% 84 008 139 494 66.0% 187 046 291 208 55.7%
65 + 12 363 17 321 40.1% 10 842 16 245 49.8% 23 205 33 566 44.6%
Total 429 265 754 126 75.7% 456 948 870 143 90.4% 886 213 1 624 269 83.3%

Source: Department of Social Security, JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance recipients – monthly profile.


[1]     ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001, Methodology.

[2]     ABS, Labour Force, detailed, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001, Table 01.

[3]     Treasury, Economic Response to the Coronavirus.

[4]     G Gilfillan, COVID-19: Impacts on casual workers in Australia—a statistical snapshot, May 2020.

[5]     Deloitte Access Economics, Business Outlook, September 2020, p 130.

[6]     G Gilfillan, Characteristics and use of casual employees in Australia, January 2018.

[7]     ABS, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001, Table 8.

[8]     ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001, Table 3: Industry spotlight.

[9]     ABS, Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, cat. no. 6160.0.55.001.

[10]    ABS, Jobs in Australia, cat no. 6160.0.

[11]    ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 1.

[12]    People can be underemployed if they are part-time workers seeking more hours and are available to start, or full-time workers who worked less hours due to economic reasons such as being stood down.

[13]    ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 1.

[14]    ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 19 (Parliamentary Library calculations).

[15]    Economic reasons include a reduction in economic activity or seasonal highs and lows.

[16]    ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6202.0, Insights into hours worked, September 2020.

[17]    Ibid.

[18]    Ibid.

[19]    Tourism Research Australia, International Visitor Survey.

[20]    Tourism Research Australia, National Visitor Survey.

[21]    ABS, Labour Force, cat. no. 6291.0.55.003, Datacube EQ06.

[22]    G Gilfillan, Characteristics and use of casual employees in Australia, January 2018.

[23]    ABS, Characteristics of Employment, cat. no. 6333.0, Glossary.

 

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