Hospitality jobs grow as subsidies start

April jobs data showed the coronavirus crisis was more widespread than expected, an economist says.
April jobs data showed the coronavirus crisis was more widespread than expected, an economist says.

Job losses slowed over the last week of April and some hospitality workers even found themselves back on the payroll.

But the Reserve Bank board is concerned about people who have lost work but can't get either the wage subsidy or unemployment benefits.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics payroll data shows overall, the nation has shed about 7.3 per cent of jobs since the coronavirus crisis started in mid-March.

Towards the end of April, jobs lost slowed considerably, dropping by 1.1 per cent, while total wages paid increased slightly.

NAB markets economist Kaixin Owyong said employment appears to be stabilising after record falls.

Young people were twice as likely to have lost jobs since the crisis started, but there was a 4.6 per cent increase in people aged under 20 in jobs at the start of May compared to the previous week.

This was driven in part by the hospitality sector putting back on about one in 20 jobs.

"This may reflect a combination of JobKeeper payments that began to flow in early May and expectations of restrictions being eased in some parts of the country," Ms Owyong said.

Tourism hotspots Coffs Harbour and the NSW mid-north coast were the hardest regions hit, losing more than 11 per cent of jobs, while one in 10 people on Queensland's Sunshine Coast were newly out of work.

The Reserve Bank board suggested the true unemployment rate was higher than official figures, since JobSeeker recipients weren't being required to actively seek work.

The minutes from its May 5 meeting noted the unemployment rate also would be higher if not for the government's JobKeeper wage subsidy.

Already, nearly 600,000 people have lost work between March and April, the biggest monthly fall in employment on record.

Another 6.1 million are receiving JobKeeper.

Nevertheless, the central bank said, "Despite the size and breadth of these programs, some people who had lost work would not be eligible for either payment."

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the government had to come up with a plan to transition away from these payments rather than cutting them off overnight in September.

"It's extraordinary, frankly, that the government is showing some complacency by the idea that snap-back envisages one day support there, next day, all gone," he told reporters in NSW town Tumbarumba.

Instead, he said, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg offered on what was to be federal budget day "a speech out of the Seinfeld script, a speech about nothing".

The RBA resolved not to increase interest rates from the record-low 0.25 per cent until Australia moved towards full employment and inflation returned to the target range.

It has predicted unemployment will still be above 6.5 per cent by the middle of 2022, well above the 5.1 per cent it was before the virus struck.

Capital Economics' senior economist Marcel Thieliant says this means rates will stay on hold in the foreseeable future.

"The financial markets are pricing in a rate hike in around three years, but we think the bank will have to keep policy loose for longer," he said.

Australian Associated Press