Doorstop - ABS labour force figures for July

Victoria lockdown, July labour force figures, COVID-19 effect on employment

MINISTER CASH: Before I comment on the labour force figures for July, can I acknowledge all of those people across Australia who are still doing it tough and are still battling the scourge of COVID-19. Can I particularly acknowledge those people in Victoria. Yesterday we saw another 278 cases, and unfortunately overnight we saw another eight deaths. And whilst the figure’s trending down, that is a positive step forward. What it does show us though is we still live with COVID-19. That is our reality as a society, and we do need to live in a COVID-safe manner. But what the labour force figures for July also show us is that, when we can get the health crisis under control, when we ease the restrictions on our economy, you
will see jobs returning back to the economy, and that is a good thing. In terms of the labour force figures for July, building on the job creation from last month, when the labour force figures were released for June, where we saw 200,000 jobs - in fact, in excess of 200,000 jobs being created. The labour force figures today show that in excess of 114,000 jobs have returned to our economy. That really does show the underlying reliance of, in particular, small and family businesses across Australia. We saw a strong increase in the participation rate, an increase of 0.6 per cent, which has resulted in an uptick in unemployment from 7.4 per cent to 7.5 per cent. But, again, what that strong participation rate shows is that Australians know that they put their hand up and they say: I am ready, willing and able to undertake work.

What we also saw pleasingly, is that whilst at the beginning of COVID-19 women and youth, they were one of the larger categories of job losses. What we have seen for the month of July is a very, very strong return of women to the workforce - almost 60,000. We also saw an increase in the number of youth participating in the workforce - around 55,000. So, as you see those easing of the restrictions, you see businesses reopening their doors, jobs being created, Australians putting up their hands and saying: I'm here, I want a job and people returning to the workforce.

As the Prime Minister acknowledges every day, every job loss as a result of COVID-19 is absolutely devastating. And whilst today the measured unemployment rate by the Australian Bureau of Statistics sits at 7.5 per cent, we do know that the effective rate of unemployment is higher. Last month it was 11.2 per cent. Pleasingly, it has dropped this month to 9.9 per cent. Again, that shows you that when you get the health crisis under control, across Australia you are able to ease restrictions, reopen your economy, you will see those jobs returning, and people being able to re-enter the workforce. When you look at the figures for Victoria this month, they had a dramatic drop in their unemployment level. I think it was 7.5 per cent down to around 6.8 per cent, and they saw the creation of jobs. One does need to remember, though, that the period in time in which this data was collected was before the Stage 4 lockdown restrictions commenced in Victoria. What it does show you is, as Victoria was easing restrictions, they were seeing job creation. So, again, as a Government we have said every step of the way we will work with Australians to fight COVID-19 on both the health front and the economic front. And we see today, with those figures for July, that with the easing of restrictions it builds on the job creation from last month in the economy, further job creation this month. We must never forget that every job loss as a result of COVID-19 is devastating, and that is why the Morrison Government has put in place a suite of measures to help employers and employees to get through this crisis.

JOURNALIST: So, just on that point about Victoria, how concerned are you for the next lot of jobs figures that will come out? Because obviously there will be a massive jump.

MINISTER CASH: Look, there will be. And the Government has always been very up-front. When you see restrictions put in place, and in particular they are Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria, they are the most serious of restrictions, you will obviously see job losses. I think, though, what today's figures do show yet again is that, with the easing of restrictions, when you get the health crisis under control, when a Government is then able to say to the people of a state or territory: we've got that part under control. We can now start reopening those businesses, we can start getting life back to what could be considered normal, you will see jobs returning. Certainly, in Victoria they were not in Stage 4 lockdown when these figures were taken. As such, you did see a decrease in the unemployment rate, an increase in the number of jobs created. We're not blind to the fact that next month the figures for Victoria, because of the Stage 4 lockdowns, are not going to be good.

JOURNALIST: How much worse should we be prepared for the figures in Melbourne to get?

MINISTER CASH: Oh, look, we're talking billions and billions of dollars of cost to the Australian economy because of the Stage 4 lockdown in Victoria. And I think what it really does highlight for all Australians is that the pandemic is still with us. When we talk about living in that COVID-safe economy as a Government, we actually mean it. Until we get a vaccine for the virus, we live with it every single day. And that is why we do need to respect all of the protocols that are put in place to ensure that, like here in Western Australia, we are able to go to work every day and undertake our employment. Again, Stage 4 restrictions in Victoria, absolutely devastating. I mean, like so many Australians, I talk to my friends, my colleagues, but in particular small and family businesses in Victoria - absolutely devastated as a result of these further lockdowns. The Morrison Government is doing everything that we can to back these businesses every step of the way.

JOURNALIST: The national unemployment rate is a little higher this month, but probably better than a lot of economists were anticipating.

MINISTER CASH: Yes, the market expectations were, because with the easing of restrictions you would see the creation of jobs. They expected around 30,000 jobs to be created. But with the figure of almost 115,000 jobs created today, building on the in excess of 200,000 jobs created last month, what that speaks to is the strength of the Australian economy. You know, I often remind people that going into COVID-19 we had a record number of Australians participating in the labour market, in excess of 13 million Australians. We had a record number of women participating in the labour market. We had a record number of youth participating in the labour market. The fundamentals in terms of the labour market were strong and that has carried us through to where we are today. But, again, that resilience of, in particular, small and family businesses across Australia, they want to do what they can to keep their doors open, and that is why, as a Government, we have backed them every step of the way. And in particular, putting in place JobKeeper. 980,000 businesses access JobKeeper. That is supporting around 3.5 million Australians to maintain that very, very important connection with their workplace. As a Government, we understand that ongoing support is required, and that is why we announced that we would extend the JobKeeper payment with some slight changes through to the end of March next year. As you get the health crisis under control, you're able to then ease restrictions and the strength and the resilience of the Australian economy really does come to the forefront as you see businesses do what we need them to do. That is, keep their doors open, keep their employees on, and in some cases actually take on more employees.

JOURNALIST: More people have returned to looking for work. How difficult is it going to be for those people to find jobs?

MINISTER CASH: We don't underestimate that it is going to be difficult for so many people. It is pleasing to see the considerable increase in the participation rate of 0.6 per cent, because what that says is people are prepared to put their hand up and say: I am ready, willing and able to take a job. You'd be aware that we've launched as a government a site called The Jobs Hub. This means that a person can go on to The Jobs Hub and they can actually look at where the jobs are in their local area but it does more than that. It then assists you to find out: if I have to upskill or reskill, what are the skills that I need to get into that job? What am I going to have to do? And that is also why the Government has such a strong focus on ensuring that vocational education and training is meeting the needs of Australians, not just now, but into the future. That is why we put in place the wage subsidy, to keep apprentices and trainees in training. That is why the Prime Minister and I last month, when the labour force figures were released, we announced the establishment of the $1 billion JobTrainer Fund. That is $500 million from the Commonwealth, matched by the states and territories. That will create around 340,000 additional training places in areas of demand in each state and territory. We hope to have training commence in September in about a few weeks’ time. What that training is going to enable people who are looking for jobs is to identify what are the jobs in demand in my state or territory, what is the skillset I need to get one of those jobs, and the government will ensure that they are able to take that training free or at a very low cost if there’s a regulatory requirement.

So again, it’s good to see the tick-up in the participation rate, but we acknowledge that there is still a long, long way to go. This is why we have such an acute focus as a government on ensuring that we are properly funding, a billion dollars’ for JobTrainer, 340,000 additional places to upskill and reskill Australians so that they are able to lead into jobs.

JOURNALIST: What’s the most up to date forecast the Government has in terms of the level unemployment will keep at?

MINISTER CASH: So, the effective unemployment rate as we discussed, 11.2 per cent down to 9.9 per cent. You’d also be aware that without JobKeeper, Treasury had forecast that the unemployment rate would be much, much higher. So, it put around 3.5 million employees who still have that really important connection with their employer because of JobKeeper. Whilst it is pleasing that the effective unemployment rate this month went from 11.2 per cent to 9.9 per cent, the Prime Minister, every time he stands up he says “every single job loss as a result of COVID-19 is absolutely devastating,”, and it is. We went into COVID-19 with record employment in Australia, in excess of 13 million Australians in jobs. We are a job creating government. When we were elected to office in 2013, we said we’d put in place the right economic fundamentals to create a billion jobs within five years. We did that before time. We will do it again.

Thank you all.