Employment continues to improve across the nation with more than three-quarters of jobs lost during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic now restored.
But federal Labor is quick to point out that more than 200,000 Australians still haven’t returned to work after losing their jobs in the lockdown.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said payroll jobs rose by a further 0.4 per cent across the fortnight to November 28.
“More than three-quarters of payroll jobs lost to mid-April had been regained by the end of November, however they remained 2.0 per cent lower than mid-March,” the bureau’s Bjorn Jarvis said.
The figures are a prelude to the official labour force figures due on Thursday.
Westpac senior economist Justin Smirk said the payrolls reports over the past few months have not been a good guide to the strength of employment in the monthly readings.
“Nevertheless, the strength of the recovery in Victoria, plus ongoing recovery elsewhere, does mean we should see a robust result for November,” Mr Smirk said.
Economists’ forecasts centre on a 40,000 increase in the number of people employed during November, after the surprising 178,800 surge in October.
That is expected to keep the unemployment rate at seven per cent, still shy of the 22-year high of 7.5 per cent seen in June.
In the Reserve Bank board’s minutes of its December 1 meeting that were also released on Tuesday, it notes employment had been recovering strongly.
“The peak in the unemployment rate was likely to be lower than the eight per cent rate expected a month earlier,” the minutes said.
But Labor says there are still a million people unemployed, with 220,000 of these still lost from when the virus outbreak began.
“These numbers show that what looks like a recovery on paper will continue to feel like a recession for many Australians,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers and opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said in a statement.
“Instead of a plan from the Morrison government to deal with flat wages, high unemployment, small business closures and big businesses cutting jobs, Australians are getting a wasted recovery which is leaving too many people behind.”
Still, while the outlook may be gloomy for some, consumer confidence managed to strike new highs for 2020, which should have retailers rubbing their hands in anticipation of a strong Christmas shopping season.
The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index rose 1.7 per cent in the past week to 111.2 points, with most of the survey’s sub-indices now back or even higher than their pre-pandemic levels.
“The rise in confidence bodes well for the holiday season,” ANZ head of Australian economics David Plank said.
Consumer confidence is a pointer to future household spending.
A separate analysis by Deloitte Access Economics says the retail industry has weathered the pandemic remarkably well, and the Christmas period is looking more positive for retailers than previously expected.
Deloitte forecasts retail turnover growth of 5.6 per cent in 2020/21 after a flat result in 2019/20 and 1.2 per cent in 2018/19.
Manufacturing too is set to end the year on a positive note with the expectation of a further expansion in 2021.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Westpac survey of industrial trends for the December quarter shows Australian industry is expecting demand and orders to significantly improve.