Source: Reuters
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  • Over 65,000 Australians found jobs in the first two weeks of December as unemployment shrank to its lowest point in over a decade, according to the ABS
  • The unemployment rate reached 4.2 per cent in the first two weeks of December, with New South Wales and Victoria largely driving the jobs growth following their Delta lockdowns
  • Head of labour statistics at the ABS Bjorn Jarvis says it is the lowest unemployment rate since August 2008, just before the start of the Global Financial Crisis
  • The underemployment rate also fell, with only 6.6 per cent of workers saying they wanted more hours, while hours worked increased and the participation rate remained at record levels
  • Of course, this data all comes from before the Omicron outbreak across Australia, meaning the actual impact of Omicron on the jobs market is still uncertain

Over 65,000 Australians found jobs in the first two weeks of December as unemployment shrank to its lowest point in over a decade, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

The latest ABS data shows unemployment fell 0.5 percentage points to 4.2 per cent in the first two weeks of December as the nation enjoyed a jobs boom in the aftermath of the Delta wave of COVID-19.

Head of labour statistics at the ABS Bjorn Jarvis said New South Wales and Victoria largely led the rises in employment through November and December, with employment in these states back to May levels towards the end of 2021.

“This is the lowest unemployment rate since August 2008, just before the start of the Global Financial Crisis and Lehman Brothers collapse, when it was 4.0 per cent,” Mr Jarvis said.

“This is also close to the lowest unemployment rate in the monthly series — February 2008 — and for a rate below 4.0 we need to look back to the 1970s when the survey was quarterly,” Mr Jarvis said.

The underemployment rate also fell, with only 6.6 per cent of workers saying they wanted more hours.

Of course, this data all comes from before the Omicron outbreak across Australia, meaning the actual impact of Omicron on the jobs market is still uncertain.

A Commbank report this week estimated that roughly one million Australians were currently isolating because of COVID-19 infection or because they were a close contact of a positive case.

Still, the ABS said along with low unemployment, the participation rate — meaning the proportion of Australians who want to work — remained at record levels in December.

“The participation rate in December… was 0.2 percentage points higher than before the start of the pandemic and only 0.2 percentage points below the historical high in May and June 2021,” Mr Jarvis said.

All this led to an increase in hours worked in December, which grew by one per cent to sit 0.1 per cent higher than in May 2021.

“The continued recovery in employment was also seen in strong increases in hours worked, as people continued to return to work in December,” Mr Jarvis said.

“The number of employed people who worked no hours due to economic and other COVID-related reasons fell from 138,000 people down to 85,000 people and was lower than in May.”

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