Up to 780,000 Australians have lost their jobs in just three weeks, as cracks begin appearing in the economy

Some Australian workers appear to be falling through the cracks in the economy. (Salvatore Laporta,KONTROLAB)

Australia has just had its first proper look at the economic carnage caused by the coronavirus outbreak and it’s not pretty.

Between 14 March and 4 April, 6% of all jobs disappeared from the country according to the latest ABS payroll data. In real terms, it means as many as 780,000 Australians have been laid off in a matter of just three weeks, essentially doubling the unemployment rate from its current 5.2% level.

“If this decrease were to be replicated in the monthly labour force data it would mean 781,000 became unemployed … adding to the 699,000 existing and pushing the unemployment rate to 10.8%,” IFM Investors chief economist Alex Joiner said in a tweet.

Whether or not that happens when the latest labour data drops in mid-May remains to be seen. Joiner notes that both the federal government’s JobKeeper package and a fall in the number of people looking for work – included in the participation rate – will soften the rise in the official unemployment rate.

Regardless of the headline figure, however, it’s a horrible result for the hundreds of thousands of Australian workers now reliant on government support. While losses may have been spread across the board, it also appears to have been young who have copped the worst of it.

“Decline in wages due to COVID-19 has been greatest among younger workers, down 12.7% since 14 March for those under 20 and down 9.1% for those aged 20-29 years,” Indeed Asia-Pacific economist Callam Pickering said.

Meanwhile when it comes to jobs themselves, it’s both the young and the older who have taken a hit. Among those aged under 20, 9.9% lost their job, as did 9.7% of those aged over 70.

The sectors where jobs are most at risk are unsurprisingly the same ones hit hardest by current government restrictions. More than one in four workers in the accommodation and food service sector have been laid off, according to the data, with close to one in five arts and recreation employees losing their job.

The sectors hardest hit according to the latest ABS data.

While those workers were the most likely to lose their income, the downturn has been broad in scope, producing sharp contractions in mining, real estate, professional services, admin, telecommunications and construction as well. In fact, only the education and training sector appears to have escaped scot-free.

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