A healthy recovery in the ACT’s job market from the peak of COVID restrictions, when 10,000 jobs were lost between April and May last year, has seen the Territory maintain Australia’s lowest unemployment rate.
According to the ACT Government, job growth was expected to be stagnant throughout the financial year 2020- 21, with a contraction of quarter of a percent (0.25%) in the Territory’s total employment for 2020-21 predicted in August 2020.
The Territory’s unemployment rate peaked during the pandemic at 5.0% in June 2020, while pre-pandemic the figure was at 2.7% in February 2020.
As of December 2020, the ACT’s unemployment rate of 3.7% and underemployment rate of 6.0% remain Australia’s lowest, and a participation rate of 72.2% is the country’s second highest.
According to ABS data, nationally the unemployment rate in December 2020 sat at 6.6%.
Despite restrictions disproportionately affecting the employment status of women and younger people, the levels of jobs held by females and youth aged 15-24 in the ACT are now above March 2020 levels.
Canberra Business Chamber CEO Graham Catt is pleased to see the ACT’s jobs growth exceeding expectations.
“Economic indicators like these mean that businesses can be cautiously optimistic about a post-COVID recovery,” he said.
“It is important that we remember, however, that while some industries are bouncing back, there are many businesses here in the ACT that are still struggling and will need continued government support.”
According to Mr Catt, local businesses operating in some industries are still struggling to find skilled people to fill job vacancies.
“That can be a handbrake on our ability to grow the economy. The Territory needs a skills strategy and workforce plan to ensure we have the people and skills we need now and well into the future,” he said.
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Bar said getting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout right across Australia when it commences later this month will go a long way towards determining how our economic recovery will look moving forward.
“Getting that right and meeting the targets that the Australian Government have set to really get it done in 2021 is going to be really important for what 2022 and beyond will look like,” Mr Barr said.
“The judgement call that will be necessary at a National Cabinet level will be what level of community vaccination is necessary before we can start easing off some of the public health measures.
“I would hope by the middle of the year, state border closures are a thing of the past.”
‘Vital’ government support for tourism and tertiary education sectors praised
Mr Barr said “all things considered, the ACT has fared quite well during the pandemic”, and expects to see that flow on in today’s 2020-21 ACT Budget.
One of the measures that will be announced in the Budget this afternoon is targeted assistance for sectors hit the hardest by international border closures, namely tertiary education and tourism.
The ACT Government’s More Than campaign will target domestic tourism over 2021 to support local venues, hotels, arts and hospitality businesses and the people who work in them.
Mr Catt said such support for those sectors that remain heavily impacted by COVID restrictions is “vital”, especially with the JobKeeper extension due to end in March.
“We need to support the industries like tourism and international education that helped drive our economic growth up until last year,” he said.
Alongside targeted support announced yesterday, Mr Catt said the Chamber is keen to know more about changes to the regulations that impact local businesses.
With low population growth set to impact on employment forecasts in the medium term, the ACT Government have flagged they will continue investing in big-ticket infrastructure projects and additional direct industry assistance.
This includes the expansion of the Canberra Hospital, the new walk-in health centre network, Woden CIT campus and the construction of new schools.
The work on stage two of the city-wide light rail network, with Stage 2A from Alinga Street to Commonwealth Park, is also expected to support 1,000 new jobs.