Women lead exit from South Australian workforce as unemployment rate surges


Almost 50,000 South Australians have become unemployed during the coronavirus crisis, with part-time female workers bearing the biggest burden.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the state’s unemployment rate increased from 7.2 to 7.9 per cent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

But South Australia ceded the mantle of the nation’s highest unemployment rate to Western Australia, where joblessness has reached 8.1 per cent.

The data reveals 11,200 South Australian jobs disappeared in May, taking the total number of job losses since March to 48,300.

About 28,900 of those jobs belonged to women, the majority of whom — 17,400 — had been part-time employed.

There are now about 69,000 South Australians unemployed, with the lowest proportion of the state’s population in work since October 2001.

SA Treasurer Rob Lucas said the federal support scheme introduced in response to COVID-19 had helped contain unemployment, but suggested the lifespan of that scheme be extended.

“The easiest one to point to is the tourism sector, and tourism-related, given there is highly unlikely to be any international travel.”

Mr Lucas said there had been a slight increase in the total number of hours worked in SA from April to May.

“That’s the only slim sliver of optimism we can see in these numbers. We’d certainly hope that evidence would be built on in the next month’s figures,” he said.

Budget plunges deeply into the red

The employment figures were released as the Treasurer confirmed the scale of the pandemic’s impact on the state’s budget finances.

The budget has been delayed until November 10, but Mr Lucas said the forecast $91 million surplus was now on track to be a deficit of $1.9 billion, with a similar result expected in 2020-21.

Mr Lucas says the state’s debt would significantly increase.

He said total government debt would likely balloon from about $16 billion to $30 billion.

The Treasurer said the writedowns were the result of $1 billion in coronavirus stimulus measures and huge writedowns in GST revenue and state taxes.

“They are the inevitable consequences of spending what was needed to prepare our health system to fight the virus, and also spending whatever was needed to save as many local jobs, businesses and community organisations as possible,” Mr Lucas said.



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