The average Australian is $10,000 poorer due to COVID-19, as the pandemic smashes the job market like never before

Unemployed Australians are hard pressed to find a job ad let alone an actual job after COVID-19. (Robert Nickelsberg, Getty Images)

As a nation, we’re not only increasingly out of work but also haemorrhaging wealth at a rapid clip.

The latest ABS data out on Thursday paints a grim picture of Australia, as job vacancies shrink by 43%, by far their sharpest fall on record.

“This was the largest quarterly fall in job vacancies over the 40 years of the survey, and well above the previous largest fall of 27%, during the 1990s recession back in November 1990,” head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said in a statement.

To put that in perspective, consider this chart illuminating the extent of the carnage.

(Australian Bureau of Statistics)

The plunge hit the business sector hard, as the private sector vacancies contracted by 45%, versus the 29% seen in public sector jobs. Tellingly, 93% of businesses reported no vacancies at all, as companies like Qantas cut thousands of workers.

According to the data, Victoria has borne the worst of it, copping an eye-watering 52% reduction in the number of gigs available, at the same time the number of job hunters nationwide soars. On the same day that the Prime Minister offered a $250 million olive branch to the arts sector, the need for it was laid bare.

“Vacancies in the arts and recreation services industry fell 95%, followed by rental, hiring and real estate down 68%, and accommodation and food services down 66%,” Jarvis said.

It’s just another tell-tale sign of an economy groaning under the strain of a shutdown, as headline unemployment rises to 7.1%, and real unemployment remains well into the double digits.

“The unemployment rate is widely considered to be understated, including by the ABS themselves, with the actual rate closer to 11.3%. That translates into around 12 unemployed people per job vacancy,” Indeed Asia-Pacific economist Callam Pickering said in a note issued to Business Insider Australia.

With JobKeeper ostensibly still on the chopping block for September, many more Australians could soon find themselves in need of a job with few to find.

“The high level of unemployed people per job vacancy highlights the risk of removing government support measures such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker. It is a simple maths equation: there simply isn’t enough jobs right now – even with the recent improvement – for everyone who wants a job to get one,” Pickering said.

“If vacancies remain below pre-crisis levels by September then pulling fiscal support would be misguided and damaging and undermine the efforts made to protect the economy throughout the crisis.”

Pickering indicates there may be one glimmer of hope however in that job postings on job sites and ensuing hiring activity is beginning to bounce “across almost every sector”, but admits it’s a “slow” path to recovery.

Separate figures meanwhile show that per capita, Australian lost $9,982 of their wealth during the March quarter.

The 2.3% fall is the largest seen since 2011 and was driven largely by extreme market volatility triggered by COVID-19 panic. Super balances contracted by 8.2%, while investors lost another 5.3% on the sharemarket.

While stocks have managed to rally higher in the months since analysts and regulators alike warn financial markets aren’t out of the woods just yet.

Certainly, surging unemployment at home and abroad will do nothing to alleviate those concerns.

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