Australia’s unemployment rate has jumped to 7.1 per cent after another 227,700 people lost their jobs thanks to coronavirus.
Australia’s unemployment rate has jumped to 7.1 per cent after another 227,700 people lost their jobs thanks to coronavirus.

Unemployment rate soars to highest in 19 years

Australia's unemployment rate has jumped to 7.1 per cent after another 227,700 people lost their jobs thanks to coronavirus.

It is the highest unemployment rate since 2001.

The jobless rate had already climbed from 5.2 per cent in March to a revised 6.4 per cent in April, as the deadly global pandemic gripped the country.

May's monthly drop in the number of people employed is the second largest on record after nearly 600,000 got sacked in April.

Another poor set of figures had been expected as a result of nationwide lockdowns.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Mr Morrison said the "sad truth is these numbers are not surprising in these circumstances".

"We must get Australians back into work. We must maintain our focus on them. All 838,000 of them, but we know there will be more in the months ahead," he said.

Mr Morrison said the figures were just before the states began ending lockdowns and that there was "some comfort" Australians were finding their way back into work, but urged "I would not be seeking to overstate that".

"These are our dark times, but I can see that ray of light, and I'm sure Australians can see that, too but we have to keep moving towards it and work harder each and every day," he said.

"We will not rest. We are working with some of the biggest economic challenges this country has ever faced and our government is working day and night to get the balance right, to get the right supports in place."

Scott Morrison says the figures are ‘heartbreaking’. Picture: Sam Mooy/Getty Images
Scott Morrison says the figures are ‘heartbreaking’. Picture: Sam Mooy/Getty Images

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described the numbers as "devastating". "These numbers reveal the scale of the challenge we face and the mountain we have to climb," he said.

"And it is why we put in place $260 billion of economic support. It is why we provided a cash flow boost to business. It is why we provided cash payments to households. It is why we provided the biggest income support measure this country has ever seen with the JobKeeper program, supporting more than three million workers."

Mr Morrison earlier said he had been bracing for another set of "heartbreaking" employment figures.

"We're in a recession and when you are in a recession, they are the sort of heartbreaking numbers we have to deal with and we still have a long way to go," Mr Morrison told 2GB radio on Thursday.

"But it is good to see more and more businesses opening up now, the restrictions are coming off and I think people do get a sense we are on our way back."

He noted consumer and business confidence had recovered from a huge jolt a few months ago when people were expecting the worst from the crisis.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed full-time employment had decreased by 89,100 while part-time employment dropped by 138,600.

The participation rate of people either in or seeking work fell by a further 0.7 per cent to 62.9 per cent.

Monthly hours worked fell 0.7 per cent in May, to be down 10.2 per cent since March.

Originally published as Unemployment soars again to 7.1p



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