Murray Bridge’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in years … or is it?
The National Skills Commission says local unemployment is running at just 5.5 per cent, just as the Jobactive network becomes Workforce Australia.
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Murray Bridge’s unemployment rate appears to have plummeted to just 5.5 per cent, the lowest level in recent history.
But the National Skills Commission has urged people to take the figures with a grain of salt.
The stats for the first quarter of 2022, published last Thursday, show that the number of unemployed people in Murray Bridge has almost halved in the past 12 months.
A year ago, an estimated 919 people were jobless and looking for work locally, or 10.2% of the workforce.
At last count, that number had fallen to just 488 people.
The same pattern was repeated in surrounding towns.
There were 60 fewer unemployed people in the rest of the Murray Bridge district – that’s Mypolonga, Monarto, Callington, Jervois and Wellington – and 86 fewer in the Coorong district.
It wasn’t just because people stopped looking for work, either.
The number of people in the available labour force – which counts all people who were either working or looking for work – only fell slightly.
It all sounded very encouraging.
However, the commission noted that the COVID-19 pandemic might have done some whacky things to its data, which was “smoothed” over a 12-month period to even out any ups and downs.
The past 12 months had featured COVID-19 outbreaks, restrictions on trade and the suspension of “mutual obligations” for some job seekers.
“Given both the large number of people who left the labour force at different times during the pandemic, and the lag from the smoothing process, care should be exercised when interpreting … data from the June quarter (of) 2020 onwards,” the commission stated.
Jobactive network becomes Workforce Australia
Meanwhile, those people still looking for work have been dealing with a major shake-up of job network providers in Murray Bridge.
On Monday, the old Jobactive network was replaced by a new system called Workforce Australia, meaning:
New providers are now responsible for employment services in some cases
Job seekers now need to deal with a “points based activation system” instead of applying for a set number of jobs each month
The new system was designed by the former Coalition government, prior to its election defeat, in response to a 2019 review which found the old system was not fulfilling its purpose.
“Participants are gaining employment in spite of Jobactive, not because of it,” the review’s authors said.
“Many participants are suffering because of the program’s punitive compliance arrangements.”