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The Number of People Receiving Jobkeeper Dropped by Half in a Month, But Economic Recovery Remains Slow

It’s a sign that the job market is improving, but Covid-affected industries still haven’t fully bounced back.

The number of Australian workers having their wages supported by the Jobkeeper scheme dropped from 3.6 million in September to 1.5 million in October. It’s a sign that industries are bouncing back from the economic impacts of Covid-19, but health-related restrictions – particularly in hospitality – mean that recovery it still slow.

Jobkeeper was estimated to cost $101.3 billion over its duration, but the significant drop in recipients over the last reporting period means the final figure will likely be lower. It’s cost around $70 billion so far.

While less people receiving Jobkeeper payments is a positive sign for businesses, visa workers were unable to qualify for the scheme and companies that are re-hiring are often unable to afford to sponsor employees while margins are tight. Plenty of charity initiatives popped up throughout the year to help hospitality workers who lost their jobs, and South Melbourne’s Mr Brownie even operated as a pop-up for unemployed visa workers to sell products during Melbourne’s second lockdown.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the official unemployment rate was seven per cent in October, while underemployment was 10.4 per cent. Underemployment accounts for people who have a job but want to work more hours. Most of this number is made up of workers involved in the Jobkeeper scheme who are working decreased hours (or none at all), but still remain employed.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said in a press conference that Australians had reason to be optimistic about economic recovery.

“We're seeing strong momentum in the economic recovery and the Jobkeeper numbers for [October] are better than what we forecast,” he said. “Certainly, things are trending in the right direction.”

Photography: Josie Withers

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