Dr Brendan Rynne, KPMG Chief Economist, comments on the ABS labour force survey

The ABS figures show the labour market deteriorated through May, consistent with expectations that the Australian economy was in the midst of a sharp contraction due to the coronavirus shutdown.

It remains challenging to get a true picture of the state of the domestic labour market, and by extension the economy, from the ABS data due to how survey respondents define their employment status. Nonetheless, with the negative results today, we can say with some confidence there will be a significant deterioration in economic activity in the June quarter.

We should focus on hours worked as a key indicator of the health of the economy. The May labour force survey tells us hours worked fell 0.7 percent between April and May, and are now 9 percent lower than the same time last year.

The significant decline in the participation rate seen in April – down to 63.5 percent – has continued and is now 62.9 percent. This is a rate not seen in Australia since September 1999.

Between April and May the number of women employed in Australia declined by about 117,700 compared to 110,000 job losses for men. But over the last 12 months, the gender figures are even, with both men and women seeing total employment decline by 5.4 percent

The majority of the lost jobs for females in the latest figures were part time or casual (85,200), while the loss of jobs for males was relatively equal between full-time and part-time.


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