Falling unemployment spurs hopes of virus recovery in Australia

People queue outside a government welfare centre in Melbourne amid the Covid-19 crisis back in March. (AFP pic)

SYDNEY: Australia’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.8% in August, spurring hopes that the worst of a coronavirus-fuelled recession may have passed.

The country’s statistical agency said Thursday that unemployment had fallen 0.7 points from the 7.5% rate posted in July, with the economy adding 111,000 more jobs.

Australia is experiencing its first recession in almost 30 years, prompting the government and central bank to embark on a vast stimulus spending programme to avert a full-blown depression.

Around a million people have lost their jobs and many more have been forced to take pay cuts or seen hours slashed.

Thursday’s figures smashed economists’ forecasts of a rise in the unemployment rate to around 8%.

But beyond the headline figure – which is seasonally adjusted – there was some cause for concern.

The number of people present in the job market, hours worked and underemployment remained largely unchanged – pointing to an economy still in serious pain.