Unemployment drops to 6.6pc, with 50,000 people starting work in December

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Australia’s official unemployment rate has fallen to 6.6 per cent as the country continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show 50,000 more people gained employment in December compared to November.

The unemployment rate peaked in July at 7.5 per cent but remains 1.5 per cent higher compared to December 2019.

The number of unemployed Australians now sits at 912,000, an increase of 221,700 since January 2020 but a decrease of more than 30,000 people compared to November.

The majority of the gains in employment were in full-time work, which increased by 35,700. Part-time work increased by 14,300 jobs.

Underemployment, workers who are going without as many hours of work as they need or want, fell almost 1 per cent from 9.4 per cent in November to 8.5 per cent in December.

Underemployment hit a peak of 13.8 per cent in April.

Government support measures mean the number of unemployed people is likely to be higher, with more than 1.3 million people on JobSeeker benefits as of November 2020.

Queensland sees biggest rise in jobs

Queensland recorded the biggest jump in employment (+1.4pc), followed by the Northern Territory (+0.7pc), Victoria (+0.4pc) and Tasmania (+0.3pc).

Western Australia remained flat while the ACT saw employment drop by 1.5 per cent, and New South Wales (-0.4pc) and South Australia (-0.1pc) were also in negative territory.

Sarah Hunter, chief economist at BIS Oxford Economics, said the figures showed the labour market’s “spectacular recovery” continued in December.

“Well over 90 per cent of the jobs lost since March have now been regained,” Dr Hunter said.

“The underemployment rate is now back to its pre-pandemic level.

“The bounce back in jobs is very welcome, and when compared with other countries, it confirms that Australia’s economy is a relative outperformer.”

Dr Hunter said the data highlighted the negative impact the pandemic was still having on some sectors and regions.

“Across the states, NSW in particular is lagging behind, with the unemployment rate 2 per cent higher than it was in early 2020,” she said.

“The disproportionate impact on younger workers, who are more likely to work in the sectors that are still not able to operate normally [hospitality, arts and recreation], is also apparent as the unemployment rate for this group is 2.3 per cent higher than a year ago, compared to 1.5 per cent for the whole of the labour force.”

More to come.

By business reporters Rachel Pupazzoni and Rachel Clayton (Original ABC Article)