While national unemployment rates for March released today saw a negligible difference month on month, the economic impact of COVID-19 was yet to be registered by the ABS.
The ABS data did not identify any major impact to headline statistics, with only some small early impacts evident, particularly in hours worked.
Importantly, the reference period was 1-14 March, which was before the WHO declared a global pandemic and Australia enacted major measures to contain the spread of the virus.
The ABS expect considerable month to month changes in their data from April onwards.
Earlier in the week, the IMF forecast a 6.7% contraction of the Australian economy this year, which would mark the single largest hit since 1930.
However, the IMF is forecasting Australia to grow by 6.1% in 2021, which is more than the USA, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and Japan.
For global perspective, the IMF is forecasting the global economy to fall by 3.0% in 2020 which compares to a fall of 0.1% in 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis.
According to the Federal Treasury’s own forecast, unemployment is expected to hit 10% nationally, but would have reached around 15% without the JobKeeper program.
ACT unemployment rate set to double
Earlier this week, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said he expects the local unemployment rate to double from 2.9% to around 6%.
The ACT currently accounts for approximately 1% of all registrations for the JobSeeker support payment since this period of economic shutdown commenced, which indicates about 6,000 additional people unemployed in the ACT.
Due to the ACT’s unemployment rate being the lowest in the country, Mr Barr said “we’re going to be in a better position comparatively than every other state and territory”.
Another factor placing Canberra better than the rest of the country is the public sector, which is expected to shield the Territory from the severity of the economic downturn hitting the rest of Australia.
The Commonwealth employs one in four Canberrans, while the ACT Government employs one in 10.
Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told ABC Radio National’s Breakfast that the speed and the timing of the recovery will depend on when health restrictions are lifted.
“What we’ve seen in both Singapore and Japan is a second wave of coronavirus cases after they thought they were having great success against the virus …
“We’ve got to be very careful of not moving ahead of the medical advice,” he said.
SEEK also noted a rapid decline in the labour market throughout March.
The SEEK Employment Report for April 2020 showed job ads on their platform were down 24.3% in the ACT in March 2020 versus March 2019. Nationally, job ads were down 33.9% year on year.