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May unemployment rate remains steady at 3.9%

A marked improvement in the amount of people employed in Australia, which saw 61,000 (or 0.5%) more people working is also a positive sign, particularly after April’s low increase of 4,000 people gaining employment, largely due to illness, flood impacts and the Easter holidays.

Bjorn Jarvis, Head of Labour Statistics at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), said “The increase in May 2022 was the seventh consecutive increase in employment, following the easing of lockdown restrictions in late 2021. Average employment growth over the past three months (30,000) continues to be stronger than the pre-pandemic trend of around 20,000 people per month.”

Seasonally adjusted hours worked increased by 0.9 per cent in May, following a 1.3 per cent increase in April.

“In addition to the continuing trend of increasing employment, we have continued to see relatively stronger growth in hours worked. This is something we also saw this time last year, before the Delta outbreak,” Mr Jarvis said.

Despite the increase in total hours worked, there continued to be relatively high numbers of people working reduced hours.

“In line with rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in May, the number of people working reduced hours due to illness continued to be high. This reflected ongoing disruption associated with the Omicron variant and also an increasing number of cases of influenza,” Mr Jarvis said.

“The number of people working fewer hours than usual due to own illness increased in May to around 781,000 people, almost double the usual number for this month.

“Of these people, around 312,000 worked no hours, which was more than double the normal amount.

“The increase in hours worked in May would have been even greater, had some of these people been able to work their usual hours.”

With increases in both employment (61,000 people) and unemployment (8,000 people) in May, the participation rate increased by 0.3 percentage points to 66.7 per cent, a new record high.

“For the first time ever, more than two out of three Australians aged 15 and over were participating in the labour force,” Mr Jarvis said.

Pleasingly also, the underemployment rate fell 0.4 percentage points to 5.7 per cent, the lowest rate since August 2008. The youth (15-24 year olds) participation rate also increased by 1.0 percentage point to 71.9 per cent, the highest it has been since October 1996.

Managing Director for The BUSY Group, Paul Miles, stated: “Employers in a range of industries are looking for staff, and for many industries, particularly those experiencing skills shortages, there is a vital need to future-proof and skill new talent for their industries. There are so many career opportunities for people right now and we encourage school leavers or anyone looking for a new career to consider an apprenticeship or traineeship pathway. The advantages of an apprenticeship or traineeship pathway is that you earn money while you are learning on the job – and gaining a nationally recognised qualification”.

For more information on Australian Apprenticeship Support Services services visit

For information on apprenticeship or traineeship vacancies available visit the national apprenticeship jobs board at


Australian Bureau of Statistics

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