ABS has released new unemployment figures. Image – Canva
  • Lockdowns determined as the source of lower employment rates
  • The unemployment rate of 4.6% can be misleading
  • New employment data has been released by the ABS

A 1.1% decline in employment was recorded between August and September according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, attributed the low employment levels to Covid restrictions in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.

“Extended lockdowns have seen employment and hours worked both drop back below their pre-pandemic levels.

Bjorn Jarvis, Head of Labour Statistics ABS

The current rate of employment places the national level of employment 0.9% lower than in March 2020, before the pandemic had taken hold.

Misleading unemployment rate

In September Australia experienced an increase in the unemployment rate from 4.5%  to 4.6%.

When considering that the RBA’s target unemployment rate in Australia is 4.5%, the employment conditions may not seem alarming.

However, the unemployment rate alone is not an accurate indication of labour conditions.

“The low national unemployment rate continues to reflect reduced participation during the recent lockdowns, rather than strong labour market conditions,” Mr Jarvis explains.

The ABS reported a 0.7% decline in the participation rate to reach 64.5%. This marks the third consecutive month of decline.

A falling participation rate means that an increasing number of people are not working and have given up searching for a job.

“Beyond people losing their jobs, or working reduced or no hours, we continue to see how challenging it is for people without work to remain active within the labour market during lockdowns,” Mr Jarvis commented.


Victorian and New South Wales represent close to 60% of the total employed population. As such the two locked down states have a great influence on the national labour market.

“In September, there were large falls in employment in Victoria (123,000 people) and New South Wales (25,000 people, following the 173,000 decline in August),” Mr Jarvis said.

“This was partly offset by a 31,000 increase in Queensland, as conditions there recovered from the lockdown in early August,” Mr Jarvis said.

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