Shock new figures show the number of Australians on JobSeeker benefits is approaching 1.7million – FOUR MONTHS earlier than predicted
- As of May 22, 1,640,773 people were on the JobSeeker unemployment benefit
- Department of Social Services official said 1.7million planned by end September
- Number on jobless benefit and Youth Allowance rose by 300,000 in one month
The number of Australians on JobSeeker unemployment benefits is approaching 1.7million – four months earlier than expected.
Shane Bennett, the acting deputy secretary of the Department of Social Services, confirmed another 300,000 people went on welfare in just one month.
On April 24, 1.346million Australians were on either JobSeeker or the Youth Allowance but by May 22, that had climbed to 1.641million.
The number of Australians on JobSeeker unemployment benefits is approaching 1.7million – four months earlier than expected. Pictured is a Melbourne Centrelink queue in March 2020
The numbers included those on the old Newstart allowance for the unemployed, which since March has been known as JobSeeker, along with sickness and bereavement benefit recipients.
Mr Bennett confirmed the number of Australians on benefits was growing at a faster pace than anticipated.
‘We did costing assumptions associated with the costing that reflected there would be 1.7million at the end of September,’ he told a Senate hearing.
Labor senator Katy Gallagher, the chair of the Senate COVID-19 committee, asked if the department would now have to budget for more welfare recipients.
Shane Bennett, the Department of Social Services acting deputy secretary, confirmed another 300,000 people went on welfare in just one month with this department not expecting 1.7million JobSeeker recipients until the end of September
‘You’re almost there now in May,’ she said.
‘Has this changed your thinking about where we might be in September?’
COVID-19 labour market at a glance
Unemployment: it surged from 5.2 per cent in March to 6.2 per cent in April – the highest since September 2015
Number unemployed climbed by 104,500 to 823,300
In April, 489,800 people left the labour force, which meant 594,300 either lost their job or gave up looking for one
Underemployment soared by 4.9 percentage points to record 13.7 per cent
Tally of underemployed Australians surged by 603,300 to 1.8million
Participation rate plunged by an unprecedented 2.4 percentage points to 63.5 per cent
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Kathryn Campbell, the Department of Social Services secretary, interrupted to say her department relied on Treasury’s economic forecasts.
‘So senator, we rely on the Treasury to do the unemployment benefit recipient numbers,’ she said.
‘We work with the Treasury to give us guidance on those.’
Like the Reserve Bank of Australia, Treasury is expecting Australia’s unemployment rate to hit 10 per cent by June, a level unseen since April 1994.
Government economists are also bracing for a recession in 2020, the first in 29 years.
The RBA left interest rates on hold on Tuesday at a record-low of 0.25 per cent.
Central bank governor Philip Lowe said the cash rate would be unlikely to rise until Australia was at full employment, where the jobless rate is at five per cent.
‘The board will not increase the cash rate target until progress is being made towards full employment and it is confident that inflation will be sustainably within the two to three per cent target band,’ he said.
Australia’s unemployment rate stood at 5.1 per cent in February, before the World Health Organisation declared a COVID-19 pandemic.
It edged up to 5.2 per cent in March, before the coronavirus shutdowns, and surged to a five-year high of 6.2 per cent in April.
In April, 823,300 were officially unemployed as another 104,500 went on the dole or were actively looking for a new job.
During that same month, 489,800 left the labour market in despair, which meant 1.3million people either lost their jobs or gave up looking for a new one.
Labor senator Katy Gallagher, the chair of the Senate COVID-19 committee, asked if the department would now have to budget for more welfare recipients