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Roy Morgan estimates 2.09 million unemployed

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Roy Morgan figures have placed the proportion of the workforce that was unemployed in May at 14.8 per cent (2.09 million Australians), double the last ABS estimate of 6.2 per cent in April.

The Roy Morgan estimate was 69,000 down on the month before, as the economy started to reopen, with 12 million people employed in May out of a total workforce of 14.1 million (down 22,000 from April). 

While unemployment started to taper off, a further 9.7 per cent of the workforce (1.37 million) were estimated to be underemployed, freelancing or working part-time while looking for more work, which was up 44,000 on the month before. 


The total of Australians unemployed and underemployed then comes to 3.46 million, a quarter (24.5 per cent) of the workforce – down by 25,000 from April. 

Roy Morgan stated the decline in unemployment is good news, but it illustrates how far the economy has to go before it returns to its former state pre-lockdown. Compared to early March, prior to the last measure before lockdown, there are an additional 1.07 million Australians unemployed (up by 7.5 percentage points). 

Michele Levine, chief executive of Roy Morgan said if the number continues to drop at the rate of 25,000 a month, pre-coronavirus levels of employment will not be reached for more than four years, until September 2024.

“The trend in May is in the right direction as the Australian economy opens up but compared to the labour market situation pre-lockdown, an additional 1.3 million Australians are now unemployed or underemployed – and this is while the JobKeeper program is still running,” Ms Levin said. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg declared Australia had entered its first recession for three decades on Wednesday.

“For Australia to emerge from this recession quickly during the next few months businesses and unions must work together to forge sensible and equitable solutions that encourage employers to hire new workers,” Ms Levin said. 

Roy Morgan’s estimate for May is double the current ABS figure but the researcher noted the ABS had estimated a large decline in the size of the workforce, down 490,000. 

The researcher said the fall in those looking for work was driven by a drop in people looking for full-time work, which fell by 94,000 to 907,000. It reported 1.1 million people are looking for part-time work, up by 25,000.

Close to 8 million (7.9 million) were estimated to employed full-time in May, up by 82,000 while 4.1 million were predicted to be part-time, down by 35,000.

A Roy Morgan text survey conducted recently found the recent Federal Court decision to award extra entitlements to certain categories of casual employees will affect up to 794,000 Australian businesses.

A quarter of businesses (567,000) reported they will be deterred from hiring casual employees and over 1 in 20 businesses (123,000) said the decision will “force them to close”. 

“These results show that if businesses and unions don’t work together to develop sensible and realistic industrial relations many hundreds of thousands of Australians that have been put out of work as a result of the ‘COVID-19 financial crisis’ will struggle to find new jobs and risk becoming long-term unemployed,” Ms Levin said.

Roy Morgan estimates 2.09 million unemployed

Roy Morgan figures have placed the proportion of the workforce that was unemployed in May at 14.8 per cent (2.09 million Australians), double the last ABS estimate of 6.2 per cent in April.

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Sarah Simpkins

Sarah Simpkins

Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth. 

Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio. 

You can contact her on [email protected].

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