Economic numbers point to a spectacular
THERE’S surprisingly – and great – upbeat news in the latest official Roy Morgan jobless numbers to be released Sunday. They suggest businesses in the two lockdown states of Victoria and NSW are showing extraordinary resilience and even strength.
Two months into their lockdowns, the jobless numbers in Australia’s two most economically important states fell in September.
And as the Morgan numbers measure real jobless numbers – that’s to say, the number of people who are actually out of work, as opposed to being “statistically” jobless, like the ABS numbers which have been distorted by statistical definitions all the way through the pandemic – this can be taken as real, reliable, encouraging news.
Roy Morgan chief executive Michelle Levine, while noting the national jobless rate had fallen from 9.5 per cent in August to 8.7 per cent in September – “driven by declines in NSW and Victoria” – to what was, extraordinarily, the lowest level since before the pandemic, in February 2020, did add a note of caution.
These numbers were not “a true reflection of the labour market with more than half of Australia’s population currently in lockdown”, Levine said.
“The workforce increased in September but is still well below its level in June 2021 before the lockdowns began in Greater Sydney,” she said.
That means the many of the large number of Australians who had given up looking for work – either because it was pointless as there were no jobs, or because they were prohibited from working with the lockdowns – are still out of the workforce.
Further, Levine noted, the increased number of jobs in September were almost entirely part-time. They rose in NSW and Victoria, and were up 273,000 to over 4.6 million nationwide. In contrast full-time employment was virtually unchanged from a month ago, she said.
The numbers show how important it is for Victoria and NSW to stick with their road
maps to end lockdowns as they hit their 70 and 80 per cent vaccination levels.
Businesses who are keeping people in jobs can’t defy cold hard reality for ever. Unless customers – and their dollars – start coming through their doors, they will have to retrench.
The numbers also indirectly point to the – potential – for the mother-of-all retail booms through NovemberDecember, if – and it is that huge if – the lockdowns end.
We can rely on the lockdown ending on schedule in the most nationally significant state, NSW – especially if the rational
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet succeeds Gladys Berejiklian.
Disturbingly, we can’t say the same for Victoria. For two reasons.
One, is what’s happening with the virus – the numbers are going seriously south despite the brutality and the length of the lockdown.
Secondly, is the pig-headed approach of Premier Dan Andrews, who refuses to admit failure, far less mistakes. Instead he just digs in deeper.
Andrews went “early, hard and (locking people in their) households” – while sneering at NSW.
But it’s shown no greater success than the softer more targeted approach in NSW; and, indeed, when the dust has settled and we can look back on the two parallel experiences, it is entirely possible the outcome with the virus numbers will end up having been worse in Victoria.
Bizarrely, exactly the sort of “shining tomorrow” that Andrews keeps talking about could actually be there for the taking.
Retail sources estimate there’s been as much as $60bn that was not spent on travel by Australians this year.
That’s money not spent overseas – obviously, we haven’t just been locked in our homes for much of the year and, most of the year in Victoria, but locked in Australia, almost 1788-style.
Who could have guessed that state premiers would “celebrate” 2020 and 2021 as a “return to a 1788 future”?
But it’s also money not spent inside Australia, because states – and in this context, especially Queensland and WA – have prohibited other Australians bringing dollars to their tourism businesses.
As both will continue to some degree past the end of the NSW and Victorian lockdowns, that’s $60bn that could be available to spend in retail.
That’s, when and if the
Victorian government allows it to be spent.
It could turn November and especially December into spending booms for retail. If, of course – another troublesome ‘if’ – the stock is there.
That can’t be taken for granted with the problems in China and disruption of supply chains across the world.
But if the money can’t all be spent in retail it could go into hospitality; and that’s a sector, again especially in Victoria, which desperately needs it.
That’s the potential upside. It’s up to the NSW and especially the Victorian government to let it be realised.