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In May, the equivalent of Darwin’s population stopped looking for a job

Job losses: “Industries like tourism or air travel have ground to a halt and employees in those industries might be waiting for them to resume operations.”

AUSTRALIA has lost more than 227,000 jobs between April and May, but less than 40 per cent of those people who lost jobs have become unemployed – the rest are not trying to find employment.

To be counted as unemployed, you must be trying to find a job.

The participation rate – which measures the labour force and people looking for work compared to the whole working-age population – dropped 0.7 percentage points.

That’s about 145,500 people – or about the population of Darwin – gone from the labour force in 30 days.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics in reporting these numbers noted this drop was “larger than usual”.

There’s lots of reasons why.

Industries like tourism or air travel have ground to a halt and employees in those industries might be waiting for them to resume operations.

New education funding released two weeks ago might have incentivised people to return to tertiary education to change career paths.

But the wider concern was that former workers were simply demoralised by the pandemic and the economic downturn.

The unemployment rate hit 7.1 per cent – a 19-year high – with the treasury predicting to see 8 per cent and many economists predicting 10 per cent before a return to normal trading.

The unemployment level reached 927,000 people.

IFM Investors chief economist Alex Joiner said if all the sacked workers, those 227,000 people, were all looking for a job, then the reported unemployment rate would actually be far higher.

“If the [participation rate] had stayed at January’s high of 66.1 (per cent) the unemployment rate would sit at 11.6 (per cent) – arguably a truer reflection of the labour market dislocation currently occurring,” Mr Joiner said in a tweet.

But it was worth keeping in mind these numbers were a month behind and they did not take into account the significant re-opening of businesses throughout June.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said as much when he revealed the numbers at a press conference last week.

“These figures were taken at a time, just before actually, the opening up of this three step plan that the states put in place, and that is of some comfort that we will see some Australians finding their way back into employment but I would not be seeking to overstate that,” Mr Morrison said.

“There is some comfort that can be taken from the fact that we are making our way back and we are on the road back and that we are taking steps, every single day.”

But it was hard to say how long and how sustainable that “road back” was with almost half of May’s job losses belonging to young people with youth unemployment hitting 16.1 per cent nationally.

Even with all the gloomy statistics, Catholics still had to keep their focus on God.

In 2017, Pope Francis wrote a letter that said work “is more than a mere doing; it is, above all, a mission”.

“We collaborate with the creative work of God when, through our work, we cultivate and preserve creation; we participate, in the Spirit of Jesus, in his redemptive mission, when by our activity we give sustenance to our families and respond to the needs of our neighbour,” he said.

He said at the centre of the economy – more than the “money god” – should be humanity.

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