/ 21 May 2021

Shruggin’ off JobKeeper with style

Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen again… The official numbers for April were out yesterday, showing a decline from 5.7% in March to 5.5% – a smidge above where it was before the start of the pandemic. It’s the 7th consecutive month that unemployment has fallen, and it provides the first look at life after the Morrison Government’s JobKeeper subsidy wrapped up.

Yes. And Treasurer Josh Frydenberg sang the result’s detailed praises, saying underemployment has fallen to its lowest level in 7 years, youth unemployment fell to its lowest level in 12 years, and 33,800 new full-time jobs were created in the month. But there is a plot twist: the number of part-time jobs fell by 64,400, meaning a total of 30,600 jobs were lost from the economy in April. So how does the unemployment rate fall if there are fewer people in work? Because fewer people were looking for work than in March. The result also ends concerns that up to 150,000 Aussies would lose their jobs when JobKeeper finished at the end of March. Treasurer Frydenberg said, “the reality is that the Australian economy strengthened even after the end of JobKeeper.” Labor’s deputy leader Richard Marles said the real test for the government is to create “secure, well-paid jobs”.

Indeed, and that’s what the team at Qantas were probably thinking yesterday as the airline cut more international cabin crew jobs and put a 2-year wage freeze in place as boss Alan Joyce forecast a $2 billion loss. The voluntary redundancies come on top of 8,500 roles that have already been cut because of the COVID crisis. Joyce says the pandemic will cost the airline at least $16 billion in revenue since the start of 2020, but things are “slowly turning the corner” thanks to increasing demand for domestic travel. And while Qantas seems to be struggling, rival Virgin Australia is hiring again with plans to launch more than 700 weekly flights across Oz in the coming months.

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