Unemployment Figures a Positive Sign for 2022

Unemployment has plunged to a 15-year low of just 4.2% – positive news for the economy, even in the midst of the Omicron wave.

ABS figures show around 65,000 jobs (0.5%) added in December 2021, following the addition of 366,00 in November.

This is great news for those seeking work – and even better for all those businesses desperate to emerge from the clutches of the labour crunch.

Bouncing back bigger, better

NSW and Victoria show the largest post-Delta lockdown bounce. Employment in Australia’s two largest states increased by 32,000 and 25,000 respectively, between November and December. This took the figures close to where they had been sitting in May, as Business Australia reports.

According to The Guardian, the figures reflect the massive fiscal stimulus applied by both state and federal governments over the course of the pandemic. With household savings more than $200 billion and record low interest rates, economic activity ratcheted up as the nation emerged from the Delta wave.

Omicron disrupts the party

And then came Omicron. The positive jobs figures were captured in the ‘reprieve’ period from 28 November to 11 December last year, preceding the sudden and rapidly spiking Omicron wave.

Treasury Head Steven Kennedy warned that January could see up to one in 10 workers absent from their post due to having the highly infectious Omicron strain, or being a close contact forced to isolate.

As ABS Head of Labour Statistics Bjorn Jarvis points out in the Business Australia report, the first half of December is also traditionally a seasonal peak for jobs growth each year.

But while we can expect to see further impact on job figures as Omicron filters through, there’s plenty of scope for another upturn in job availability later in 2022.

Underemployment in December drops

The ABS figures also show that underemployment dropped significantly in the same time frame.

This left just 6.6% of those employed saying they wanted more working hours. Overall, across the economy, there was a 1% rise in the total number of hours worked.

December’s participation rate ended up 0.2% higher than before the start of the pandemic. It was also close to the historical high seen back in May and June 2021.

Summing up . . .

With job figures likely to seesaw over the coming months, there’s no denying the force of pent-up demand and the underlying strength of the economy.

Putting things in perspective, Bjorn Jarvis said the 4.2% unemployment rate is the lowest since the start of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, when it was 4%. Business Australia reports that “many economists are now expecting unemployment to remain in the low-4% range, or even fall under 3%, as the Omicron wave subsides.”

If you want to capitalise on a year of great potential growth and invest in the right people, ask the HR experts about the best way to do it!