Payroll jobs below pre-pandemic levels.

Weekly payroll jobs and wages; Services sector activity

National payroll jobs fell by 0.7 per cent over the fortnight to September 11, 2021.

The AiGroup Performance of Services Index (PSI) rose from 45.6 in August to 45.7 in September.

Weekly payrolls – Fortnight ended September 11, 2021

• Overall assessment: Payroll jobs fell in the first half of September with ‘stay-at-home’ restrictions in Australia’s south-east contributing to large job ‘losses’ in both the ACT and Victoria. In fact, Victoria accounted for around three-quarters of the overall jobs shed during the fortnight to September 11, 2021. The September labour force survey is issued on October 14, 2021 and could see significant job ‘losses’ – led by declines in Victoria – with a significant fall in hours worked likely.

• Covid-19 lockdowns in Australia’s south-east have led to increased scrutiny of high frequency Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Australian Taxation Office (ATO) weekly payroll jobs data. Today the ABS reported that national payroll jobs fell by 0.7 per cent over the fortnight to September 11, 2021 to be 0.5 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels (March 14, 2020 when Australia recorded its 100th Covid-19 case).

• But total wages lifted by 1.8 per cent over the fortnight to September 11, 2021 to be 5 per cent above pre-pandemic levels on March 14, 2020.

• Payroll jobs worked by people aged 15-19 years decreased by 1.6 per cent over the fortnight to September 11, 2021.

• By industry, payroll jobs decreased by the most over the fortnight to September 11, 2021 in Arts and recreation services (-7.4 per cent), but jobs lifted in Construction (+0.5 per cent) and Financial and Insurance services (+0.1 per cent).

• By employment size, payroll jobs decreased by the most over the fortnight to September 11, 2021 for businesses with fewer than 20 employees (-2.5 per cent), followed by firms with 20-199 employees (-1.1 per cent). But businesses with 200 or more employees increased payroll jobs by 0.4 per cent.

• By state and territory, the largest payroll job declines were in the ACT (‑2.3 per cent) and Victoria (‑1.8 per cent), followed by NSW and Tasmania (both ‑0.3 per cent), Queensland and South Australia (both -0.2 per cent). Elsewhere, payroll jobs rose Northern Territory (+0.1 per cent) and were flat in Western Australia. Over the fortnight, extended lockdowns were in place in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

• By region over the fortnight to September 11, 2021 payroll jobs declined most in Greater Melbourne (-2.1 per cent), followed by Greater Sydney, Greater Brisbane and Greater Hobart (all -0.4 per cent). Payroll jobs also declined in Greater Adelaide (-0.3 per cent) and Greater Perth (-0.2 per cent). But payroll wages rose in Greater Darwin (+0.2 per cent).

• Since the Delta lockdown began in NSW (June 26-September 11, 2021) payrolls jobs in Greater Sydney have plunged by 9.9 per cent to be 7.6 per cent below levels on March 14, 2020 when Australia recorded its 100th confirmed case of Covid-19.

• Since June 26, 2020, the biggest job declines have been in Sydney – Inner South West (-13.8 per cent), followed by Sydney – South West (-12.7 per cent) and Sydney – Parramatta (-11.2 per cent).

• Since the Delta lockdown began in Victoria (August 7-September 11, 2021) payrolls jobs in Greater Melbourne have dropped by 6.2 per cent to be 4.5 per cent below levels on March 14, 2020 when Australia recorded its 100th confirmed case of Covid-19.

• Since August 7, 2020, the biggest job declines have been in Mornington Peninsula (-7.6 per cent), followed by Melbourne – North East and Melbourne – North West (both -6.5 per cent). But payrolls rose 0.7 per cent in Ballarat.

• Commonwealth Bank (CBA) Group economists expect next week’s labour force survey to show around 200,000 job losses nationally in September with the unemployment rate lifting from a 12½-year low of 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent and the participation rate down from 65.2 per cent to 64.5 per cent. But most attention will be on key measures of labour demand during lockdowns, including hours worked and the underemployment rate.

AiGroup Performance of Services index – September

• The AiGroup Performance of Services Index (PSI) edged higher from an 11-month low of 45.6 in August to 45.7 in September. An index reading below 50 signals a contraction in services activity due to prolonged lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

• The employment sub-index eased by 1.4 points in September to 52, but remains resilient in the face of lockdowns. Some services companies are holding on to their workers in anticipation of a reopening of the state economies once vaccination targets are reached.

• The AiG noted, “Retail trade & hospitality dominated the downturn while business & property services also contracted as did personal & recreational services. The logistics sector saw competing forces balance gains and losses in the steady overall performance.”

Published by Ryan Felsman, Senior Economist, CommSec