Thursday, 18 March 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Senator Cash. Can the minister update the Senate on how today's labour force figures show how the Morrison government's economic recovery plan is supporting Australians into jobs and Australia's economic recovery?
I thank Senator Bragg for his question. The labour force figures that have been released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the Australian labour market—and that is, of course, the employers out there—continued to recover strongly in February 2021. What we saw last month was employment actually increase by 88,700 over the month, and that exceeded all market expectations. Importantly, all states and territories across Australia recorded a rise in employment over the month, so the ending of those COVID restrictions is well and truly seeing the states and territories now create jobs. There are now more than 13 million Australians in work. That means that the level of employment is now 3,600 above the pre-COVID level in March 2020. In fact, it's 876,400, or 7.2 per cent higher than the trough in the labour market recorded in May 2020.
In terms of job creation in the month of February, the increase in employment over the month, I am pleased to say, was due entirely to a surge in full-time jobs. Full-time jobs rose by around 89,100 in February. We now have full-time employment at a record high in Australia, at 8,895,000. As our Minister for Women knows, women accounted for the vast majority of the rise in employment in February. That was up by 74,100. That is also at a record high, at 6,174,200. We also saw the unemployment rate drop by half a percentage point. So we're seeing a strong recovery in the labour market.
The government's economic recovery plan, described by the OECD as key to saving jobs, will continue to create employment opportunities in Australia and also to secure Australia's economic and labour market future. As we enter the next phase of COVID-19—because we know there is a phase and we need to come out of it—we have our $74 billion JobMaker plan. That is, of course, putting in place major supports for employers and the Australian workplace. As the minister for skills, I'd like to highlight the government's strong focus on supporting apprentices and trainees throughout Australia. Our Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy has now seen over 123,000 apprentices kept on since COVID-19 commenced, and Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements has now supported over 100,000 new commencements.
As the Prime Minister and the Treasurer say, there is a long road ahead, but the economic outlook is optimistic. When you look at the performance of Australia, we have outperformed all major advanced nations, with more Australians in work today than before the crisis. As I said, we now have in excess of 13 million Australians in work, and the level of employment today is actually higher than it was at the height of the crisis. We continue to see, though, consumer confidence, business confidence and job ads grow to higher levels than before the pandemic. Despite the impacts of COVID-19, the latest ABS data also shows that an additional 46,000 businesses were trading over the year to June 2020. Again, the government is all about putting in place that right economic framework to ensure that, across Australia, businesses can prosper, grow and create more jobs for Australians.