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May 14, 2020

Today’s labour force figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) paint a terrible picture for Australians, with massive job losses and underemployment.

Skyrocketing underemployment and rising unemployment are concerning enough, however the statistics are a lagging indicator, representing last month’s labour market, with more bad news still to come.

Hundreds of thousands of job losses could have been prevented if Josh Frydenberg had used his power to extend JobKeeper to millions of workers, which he can still do at the stroke of a pen.

2.6 million people are now looking for work or more work.

The unemployment rate hit 6.2 per cent, with 600,000 fewer people in employment. This is the largest monthly decline in employment on record.

823,000 Australians are unemployed, the most since 1994.

The participation rate fell to 63.5 per cent, which is the single largest fall in the rate since the current ABS series started in 1978 and the lowest participation rate since September 2004.

Nearly 500,000 people have dropped out of the labour market. If they had been counted in the ABS statistics, the unemployment rate would have been 9.6 per cent, with more than a million Australians unemployed.

Underemployment surged from its pre-virus high to a new record with 1.8 million people looking for more hours than they can get.

Australia entered the crisis from a position of relative economic weakness not strength, which makes this much-needed support even more urgent.

Australian workers, businesses, and the community need the Treasurer to stop recycling old media releases and anti-worker biases and instead outline the Morrison Government’s plan for the post-virus economic recovery.