Unemployment edges up as thousands give up on looking for work during lockdowns

© Provided by ABC Business Youth part-time employment has been growing in Australia, but full-time employment has fallen. (Nic MacBean/ABC News)

Another 138,000 jobs were lost last month as Australia’s two most populous states struggled through extended lockdowns.

The national unemployment rate edged up to 4.6 per cent, from 4.5 per cent, with another dramatic deterioration in the participation rate the main reason why unemployment did not jump further.

The labour markets of New South Wales and Victoria — with a combined share of close to 60 per cent of Australia’s employed population — had a huge influence on the national figures.

Last month there were large falls in employment in Victoria (123,000 people) and NSW (25,000 people, following a significant 173,000 decline in August).

The national figures were partly offset by a 31,000 increase in Queensland, where conditions recovered from the short lockdown in early August.

But the extent of the economic damage from NSW failing to contain its COVID-19 outbreak in June has become even clearer.

Over the last three months, participation in the labour force has fallen by 333,000 people, with employment dropping by 281,000 people.

There are now 111,000 fewer people employed than before the first COVID lockdowns in March 2020.

“Extended lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have seen employment and hours worked both drop back below their pre-pandemic levels,” said Bjorn Jarvis, the head of labour statistics at the Bureau of Statistics.

More to come.

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