Unemployment reaches 7.1% in Australia, worst in over 15 yrs

The unemployment rate in Australia reached 7.1 per cent in May and stood at the worst level in more than 15 years, which is heading for its first recession in almost three decades due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to official data published on Thursday.

“The fall in employment (in May) close to a quarter of a million adds to the 600,000 (new unemployed) in April, which totals a fall of 835,000 people (who have lost their jobs) since March,” Bjorn Jarvis, senior representative of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, said.

Unemployment figures have increased markedly since March, when Australia closed its borders and ordered the closure of nonessential businesses to curb the spread of the virus, which has infected 7,370 people in the country, with 102 deaths, reports Efe news

“In two months, the percentage of people aged 15 and over employed in Australia decreased from around 62.5 per cent to around 58.7 percent,” Jarvis said, adding that women had been more affected by the crisis than men and that younger people had found it harder to keep their jobs.

He said that about “2.3 million people, around 1 in 5 employed people, were affected by either job loss between April and May or had less hours than usual for economic reasons in May”.

Responding to the figures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that “these are dark times” and stressed that his government “will not rest and will work on the biggest economic challenges the country has seen”.

The government has committed aid funds of up to A$259 billion ($178 billion), equivalent to 13.3 per cent of its GDP.

By 2020, the Federal Reserve Bank of Australia estimates that GDP will drop by 6 per cent and the unemployment rate may reach 10 per cent in the country, which had registered almost 30 consecutive years of economic growth.