/ 19 March 2021

Australia works it out

February’s employment numbers were in yesterday, and “there are now more jobs in the Australian economy than there were before the pandemic,” PM Scott Morrison said. The unemployment rate fell last month to 5.8%, down from 6.3% in January – a surprisingly good result with analysts expecting a fall, but not anywhere near as big. All of the 88,700 people who went into new jobs last month secured full-time roles – and 80% of them were women. It sees the number of employed Aussies shoot past the 13 million mark for the first time in 11 months.

Thumbs up for energy, but just rein it in a bit… Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the employment numbers are bloody great (or words to that effect…), but the “months from here will continue to be challenging because we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and the greatest economic shock since the Great Depression.” And with JobKeeper coming off on 28 March, he said “we know it will be bumpy”. To recap: people receiving the government-paid wage subsidy aren’t counted in the unemployment figures. So when the payment ends, will employers shed jobs or are they ready to fight on? That’s the multi-billion dollar question… One industry to secure ongoing government support is the aviation sector, and Qantas yesterday told stood-down staff like international flight crew that they will receive $500/week over the coming months.

Not if you were a Coalition senator trying to get a win on industrial relations… With portfolio minister Christian Porter on leave and despite months of negotiations on a wide-ranging bill, it didn’t get the support from the Senate crossbench it needed to see it pass intact. There was agreement on a new definition of ‘casual employment’, which small and large businesses have been calling out for, and extending the right to casual workers to convert to permanent jobs. But a lot of it was ditched in scenes that Labor said were humiliating for Team Morrison. The PM, however, brushed it off, saying he will find other ways to support job creation. The amended bill will pass the House of Representatives next week.

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