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September employment figures show the effect of long lockdown periods

Head of labour statistics at the ABS, Bjorn Jarvis said: “Extended lockdowns in New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory have seen employment and hours worked both drop back below their pre-pandemic levels.

In September 2021, there were 111,000 fewer employed people (0.9 per cent) and 2.0 per cent fewer hours worked than in March 2020.”

The drop in the national figure is not surprising considering New South Wales and Victoria have a combined share of close to 60 percent of Australia’s employed population and both states have experienced extensive lockdown periods.

The figures were somewhat offset by the recovery in Queensland, who recently emerged from their lockdown period in August, seeing an increase of 31,000 people employed.

The ABS also reported that the participation rate fell 0.7 percentage points to 64.5 per cent. This was the third consecutive monthly decline from the near historic high of 66.2 per cent in June 2021 and continued the pattern of large falls in participation during lockdowns.

“The low national unemployment rate continues to reflect reduced participation during the recent lockdowns, rather than strong labour market conditions,” Mr Jarvis said.

As States are finally coming out of long lockdown periods, the national hours worked are increasing, particularly in Queensland (rising 5.4%) and NSW (rising 2.7%). However, hours worked slumped in Victoria (3.6%) and the ACT (10.5%).

Paul Miles, Managing Director for BUSY At Work, a for-purpose organisation that delivers a range of employment and training services including the Australian Apprenticeship Support Network services, said, “There is no doubt the impacts and uncertainty of the last eighteen months has been extremely tough for businesses and our economy. The Australian Government has contributed billions of dollars in initiatives such as the Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements and other financial supports for businesses that will position our economic recovery for the future. We can all do our bit for that recovery too, by spending dollars in local businesses and our local regions leading up to the holiday period.”

More information regarding the latest ABS figures can be found at

More information on BUSY At Work and wage subsidy support for businesses can be found at

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