Lower participation rate at root of employment and unemployment declines. Image – Canva
  • Impacts of border and lockdown restrictions are reflected in ABS data released today
  • Population growth has slowed to a near stop
  • Rates of participation in the workforce have declined

Lockdowns across Australia have lead to a fall in employment and border closers have slowed population growth to a near stand-still, according to data released by the ABS today.


ABS Demography Director Beidar Cho explained the drastic change in population growth in the year to March 2021.

“Australia’s population grew by just over 0.1 per cent (35,700 people) to 25.7 million, in contrast to a growth of 1.5 per cent we had in the 2019 calendar year,” she said.

“This is the first full year of data reflecting the impacts of COVID-19 on Australia’s population. “

Beidar Cho, ABS Demography Director

Australian population growth is traditionally driven by high levels of overseas migration. The recent statistics are a stark contrast to this with departures exceeding arrivals by 95,300.

Natural causes accounted for the entirety of Australia’s marginal population growth, adding 131,000 people as births exceeded deaths.

This natural increase is however down 4% from the previous year, sustaining the recent five-year trend as people have fewer children.

Birth rates are declining as people have smaller families. Image – Canva

Employment & Participation

Employment rates have fallen 1.1% in Australia as the impact of the recent and ongoing lockdowns are felt across Australia.

Unemployment has fallen 0.1% to reach a 4.5% unemployment rate.

Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, explains that a fall in unemployment can be misleading.

“The fall in the unemployment rate reflects a large fall in participation during the recent lockdowns, rather than a strengthening in labour market conditions.”

Bjorn Jarvis, ABS Head of Labour Statistics

A consistent pattern throughout the pandemic has been large falls in the number of people participating in the labour force during lockdowns.

The past few months have reiterated this trend, reiterated over the past few months, as the participation rate declined by 0.8 percentage points to reach 65.2%.

“Beyond people losing their jobs, we have seen unemployed people drop out of the labour force, given how difficult it is to actively look for work and be available for work during lockdowns,” said Mr Jarvis.

The newest data reflects recent Covid restrictions as it covered the first two weeks of August.


Hours worked declined by 3.7% Australia-wide in August. This statistic is a far reach from the 1.1% fall in employment.

This highlights the underemployment experienced. Many Australians have had reduced hours or no work, without necessarily losing their job.

“Hours worked data continues to provide the best indicator of the extent of labour market impacts and recovery from lockdowns,”

Bjorn Jarvis, ABS Head of Labour Statistics

“It shows that hours in New South Wales fell sharply over the lockdown, down by 13.0% between June and August. The data for Victoria also shows how quickly hours can recover, coming out of a lockdown,” Mr Jarvis said.

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