Australia’s jobless to face mutual obligation rule despite few job vacancies | Australia news


Jobseekers face the renewed threat of benefit suspension after the federal government announced the return of welfare mutual obligations.

From 28 September, about 1.5 million people receiving unemployment benefits will need to search for up to eight jobs a month, sign a job search plan and participate in meetings with an employment services provider.

That’s despite limited job availability amid the Covid-19 recession, with analysis of government data showing there are 13 jobseekers for every job vacancy across Australia.

Benefits suspensions – which have been paused during the pandemic – will recommence, meaning jobseekers can have their payments stopped for not meeting these obligations.

In a move condemned by advocates who doubt its value and whether it is safe, the controversial work for the dole program for longer-term unemployed will also return in cases where the government believes it is “safe to do so and all health and safety requirements are met”.

Mutual obligations will remain paused in Victoriaas it grapples with tough coronavirus restrictions.

The changes coincide with a $300-a-fortnight cut to the coronavirus supplement – added to jobseeker, student and parenting benefits – on 25 September, a move that may cost the economy $31bn and 145,000 full-time jobs over two years.

Kristin O’Connell, spokesperson for the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, said the government was putting “unemployment cops back on the beat while there are no jobs to be had”.

“While ‘mutual’ obligations were suspended, we received countless reports from people saying they feel properly equipped to look for work for the first time,” she said.

“Without any penalties for not applying for jobs, job ads were receiving more applications than ever before.”

Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, said requiring jobseekers to search for eight jobs a month was “too high in the highly competitive jobs market”.

She added that the Work for the Dole program “does nothing to improve employment prospects [and] could put people at risk under Covid-19”.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert also added to the criticism, blasting the government for throwing struggling Australians under the bus to “line the pockets of private companies”.

“We are in the midst of a recession, the jobs are not there and we are basically making people chase their tails, pushing paper to keep this government happy, and line the pockets of private companies who are making a lot of money out of the unemployment industry,” she said.

Since 2015, the government has awarded more than $7bn worth of welfare-to-work contracts to private employment service providers.

Guardian Australia has reported extensively on the blunt nature of the welfare compliance regime, which saw jobseekers’ payments temporarily stopped 2.3 million times in 2018-19.

Of the 581,866 people who had their payments suspended last financial year, 121,604 were later found to have had a reasonable excuse.

In a joint statement, the employment minister, Michaelia Cash, and social services minister, Anne Ruston, said labour force data showed Australians were “returning to the workforce and many businesses are looking for workers”.

On Thursday, the ABS said unemployment fell by 0.7% to 6.8% in August. Economists said the shift was mostly driven by an increase in people describing themselves as self-employed, likely reflecting a boost to gig economy jobs such as food delivery.

But government data on jobseeker payment recipients shows there was a negligible change in recipients between July and August. The figure stood at 1.5 million in both months. There was little difference among those who recorded employment income.

The ministers said the government was also focusing on upskilling jobseekers as the labour market shifts due to the pandemic.

“Given the changing nature of the labour market, with many roles changing significantly because of Covid-19, the government is also increasing opportunities for jobseekers to train and upskill to become more employable in areas of high skill demand,” they said.

The ministers said short education or training courses would also count towards mutual obligation requirements under more flexible rules.

They said the government acknowledged it was “a challenging time for those looking for work” and encouraged people to access the support services made available.

This included “skills training, assistance for other work preparation activities and referral to relevant support services – including mental health services, if required”.

Labor’s employment spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, said the opposition supported the “principle of mutual obligation” but it should not be punitive and the government needed to create jobs, rather than just cut benefits.

Exemptions from mutual obligations will be available for those who can demonstrate special circumstances.

The new rules will apply to people on the jobactive program, the new online employment services program, disability employment services and ParentsNext.

In the case of ParentsNext, it means participants, who are mostly single mothers, may have their payments stopped for failing to attend activities that have previously included things like taking their children to playgroup or StoryTime session at the library.

Although people can have their payments restarted by “re-engaging” with their job agency, critics argue a delay to welfare payments often leaves those on benefits struggling to afford essentials and cover bills.



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Indians jobless during pandemic find income in aquifer project



Sagar, India

Basant Ahirwar worked as an expert mason in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state before the country’s coronavirus lockdown shut down business and forced him to return, jobless and largely on foot, to his home in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

Now, however, he has found new work: Digging water capture pits into the hillsides of his drought-hit home district, a project aimed at restoring depleting aquifers and providing an income to thousands of unemployed workers.

About 7,000 returning migrant workers and other unemployed people have been hired to do the work, with 50,000 pits dug since April on more than 40 hills around Sagar district, authorities said.

“This work has become a means of sustenance for us,” said Mr. Ahirwar, who said he was being paid about 190 rupees ($2.50) a day for the work – a third of what he used to get as a mason but welcome in a time when few other jobs are available.

He said rainwater was already collecting in the trenches and “the hills, which were earlier barren, have now become lush and green,” raising the prospect that farming in the district, slammed by drought, could become more successful again.

The work, which had been carried out earlier on a smaller scale, is being done under the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which aims to offer at least 100 days of paid employment a year per family in need of work.

Ichchhit Garhpale, the head of Sagar district’s panchayat, or local council, said the effort aims to improve groundwater levels in the district.

As rainwater flows down the hills, it is trapped in the trenches, he said, and percolates slowly into the soil, rather than rushing away and causing erosion.

He said the pit system could help capture as much as 60 million liters of additional water in the course of a year.

Similar pits are planned on 20 to 25 more hills owned by the state government in the district, he said, as the project pushes ahead.

The work has come as a relief to thousands of migrant workers who rushed home in March after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a nationwide lockdown as cases of the coronavirus began rising.

The shutdown left millions without prospects for work – but efforts like that in Sagar have helped shore up families and raised the prospect that some may remain in their home districts.

‘Nothing better’

Rohit Vishwakarma, who used to work in Nagpur, almost 250 miles from Sagar, said he saw the project providing better long-term prospects at home.

“The area faces acute drinking water shortages. One has to cover long distances to fetch water during the summer season. The wells and hand-pumps run dry due to the fast-depleting groundwater,” he said.

“If we are able to solve the water problem, there is nothing better than that,” he said. And “if we continue to get this kind of work, we will not have to return to big cities to work.”

Sagar district sits in India’s Bundelkhand region, which is famous for its problems with drought. Erratic rain often leads to crop losses and joblessness, and the region struggles with other problems, from widespread illiteracy to inadequate healthcare.

Over the past decade, even normally erratic rains have been in decline, with the region seeing just half what is considered “normal” rainfall for the last six years, according to data from the India Meteorological Department.

But local officials said the trench digging – with trees in some cases planted on the soil removed, and grass beginning to sprout as well – may help turn around a bad situation.

“Grass and plants grow on it naturally, and thus food becomes available for villagers’ cattle and grazing animals,” said Mr. Garhpale, head of the local council.

He said that water levels in wells in the area also had shown signs of rising as a result of the work, and that problems with flooding downstream when heavy rain falls had been reduced.

This story was reported by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Editor’s note: As a public service, the Monitor has removed the paywall for all our coronavirus coverage. It’s free.



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Racial gap in U.S. jobless rate widens again in August


September 4, 2020

(Reuters) – The gap in unemployment rates between Blacks and whites in the United States widened for a fourth straight month in August, and the spread between the races is now the largest in nearly six years.

The jobless rate for Blacks dropped by 1.6 percentage points to 13% in August from 14.6% in July, while the rate for whites dropped at a faster rate of 1.9 percentage points to 7.3% from 9.2% a month earlier. The overall U.S. unemployment rate fell more than expected last month to 8.4% from 10.2% in July.

The 5.7 percentage point gap was the widest since December 2014. One year earlier, in August 2019, the spread had been a record-low 2 percentage points. It was 2.5 points in April, when the U.S. economy shed a record 20.8 million jobs as a result of business shutdowns imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The racial gap in U.S. jobless rates has come under closer scrutiny in the months since the pandemic struck as minorities and women suffered an outsized share of job losses, exacerbating long-standing economic inequality. The widening also occurs against a backdrop of protests against police violence against Blacks, which has become a central issue in the U.S. presidential election campaign.

(Reporting by Dan Burns; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)





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Coronavirus: US jobless claims dip below a million as Wall Street rebounds | Business News


The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits has fallen below one million for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, last week’s drop has been put down to the ending of a $600 weekly supplement, which is likely to have discouraged some from filing claims.

The updated figures from the Labor Department did little to change economists’ views that the jobs market recovery was faltering in the face of the continuing coronavirus emergency.

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The stock market and economy are ‘disconnected’, say analysts

Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York, said: “It is too early to declare victory as there is a long way to go to stop the bleeding of the labour markets and part of the reason for reduced filings looks to be tied to the expiration of that $600 weekly turbo-boost for unemployment benefits from the expired federal programme at the end of July.”

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 228,000 to a seasonally adjusted 963,000 for the week ending 8 August.

That was the lowest level since mid-March when authorities started shutting down non-essential business to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Claims peaked at a record 6.9 million in late March.

Even with last week’s fall, claims are well above their 695,000 peak during the financial crash in 2008.

A total 28.3 million people were receiving unemployment benefit at the end of July.

Data last week showed the economy had regained only 9.3 million jobs of the 22 million lost between February and April, indicating that it faces a long road to reach pre-pandemic levels.

In contrast, Wall Street has recovered most of the trillions of dollars in losses at the start of the pandemic and the benchmark S&P 500 was within a few points of a record high.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: The Apple logo sits on a sign outside company's Covent Garden store on September 29, 2016 in London, England. Technology company Apple has announced that Battersea Power Station, a Grade II listed building and former coal-fired power station, is to be its new London headquarters by 2021. The building, which has been unoccupied for decades, is currently undergoing a £9 billion restoration. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
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The rise in share price puts Apple close to be being valued at $2trn

The tech-heavy Nasdaq was the first of the three major indexes to hit a record high in June.

However, the blue-chip Dow is about 5.6% below its February peak.

Stocks in Apple rose 2.4% to about $463.09 (£354.80), less than $5 (£3.83) a share shy of the tech giant being valued at $2trn (£1.53trn).

Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina, said “Our take on a new high, if it happens, is that it’s another reminder to investors how disconnected the stock market and the economy have been this year.

“The stocks have soared but the economy – it’s improved, yes – but a million initial claims is still not good.”

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Meanwhile, markets continued to hold on to hopes the Democrats and the Trump administration would reach an agreement for a stimulus to help the economy recover.

Unemployment benefits have been a sticking point in their talks.

The US presidential election is also expected to add another layer of uncertainty into markets, with roughly 12 weeks remaining until election day.

“The fact that interest rates are so low, people really have no place to put money,” said Kevin Miller, chief investment officer of Minnesota-based E-Valuator Funds.

“A lot of the larger companies that make up the S&P 500 have a heavy cash position, they really have strong free cash flow, so it’s a magnet for investor dollars.”



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Jobless rate sits at 10.2% as Congress debates replacement for expired $600 unemployment benefit


The unemployment rate dropped from 11.1% in June to 10.2% in July, as the economy added nearly 1.8 million jobs last month, soundly beating consensus estimates. Equities futures and the dollar gained on the news.

That marks a third straight month of solid hiring and a falling jobless rate after it topped out at 14.7% in April—the highest level since 1940.

This points to an economy that continues to rebound since states began easing lockdowns. The 10.2% unemployment rate, while still weak, comes in far better than the 10.6% consensus estimates of economists compiled by Bloomberg. The improvement will be good news for the White House, but it’s clear it will take years before the U.S. labor market returns to pre-pandemic levels.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) jobs report finds the total number of unemployed Americans stood at 16.3 million in July, much improved from the 23.1 million unemployed in April. But the number of Americans out of work is still around three times greater than the February figure (when 5.8 million were unemployed), and indicates the much hoped for V-shaped recovery is far from likely.

Jobless Americans were receiving an extra $600 per weekly in unemployment benefits from the federal government, however, that benefit expired without a replacement the week ending July 25.

Congress has yet to come to an agreement for extending or replacing the 600-buck supplement, which paid its final benefit for the week ending July 25. Democratic and Republican party leaders are making little progress in their talks for another stimulus package, and enhanced unemployment benefits are among the most disputed negotiating points in the bill. Democrats want the $600 benefit extended through the end of the year, while Republicans want it scaled back, arguing that it’s so generous it’s deterring the jobless from seeking work.

The July jobs numbers also show the economic slump is still hitting some communities harder than others. The jobless rate among white workers is 9.2%, compared with 12% for Asian workers, 12.9% for Hispanic workers, and 14.6% among Black workers. Among adult men, the rate is 9.4%, compared to 10.5% among adult women.

While the number of unemployment Americans is going down, the number of “permanently” unemployed Americans remained at 2.9 million in July. That number had risen in May and June as employers converted some of their furloughs into layoffs—something that could impede the recovery.

This official unemployment rate of 10.2% is likely undercounting the actual level of joblessness from July. The BLS defines the unemployed as people without jobs who are also looking for new positions. So laid-off workers who are receiving unemployment benefits but aren’t looking for a job, aren’t considered unemployed.

The report highlights other abnormalities in the labor market. For example, in July, the BLS found that 16.3 million Americans were unemployed. However, U.S. Department of Labor data finds 30.5 million were receiving the $600 enhanced unemployment benefit before it expired in July.

More must-read finance coverage from Fortune:



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Unemployment worse than expected as jobless numbers surge and participation slumps


Employment figures for Might make for grim reading through, as unemployment hits 7.1% and participation returns to 1990s degrees. But there some constructive indications amid the carnage.

(Impression: AAP/Joel Carrett)

Although the May perhaps unemployment numbers unveiled this early morning have been predicted to be poor, they ended up a minor even worse than feared.

Unemployment rose to 7.1% seasonally altered in Could, off an upwardly revised April determine 0f 6.4%, as a web 227,000 work have been lost in the thirty day period — 90,000 comprehensive-time positions and virtually 140,000 component-time positions.

A full of 835,000 men and women have dropped their work opportunities since the pandemic lockdown started in March, having unemployment to its optimum degree due to the fact 2001.

The quantities would have been significantly even worse but for a further huge slide in participation, with the participation charge now down to 62.9%, additional than a few factors beneath 2019 stages and the cheapest level given that the 1990s. And when female participation fell once again, male participation slumped by even extra, possibly indicating the altering character of task losses following the original surge of unemployment strike expert services industries.

Victoria and Queensland observed notably sharp jumps in unemployment, with rises from 6% to 6.9% and 7.% to 7.9%, respectively. NSW stays somewhat low, at 6.4%, alongside with Tasmania, whilst WA is now in excess of 8%.

Nonetheless, there are signs of stabilisation: several hours labored only fell .7% in contrast to 9.5% in April, though regular several hours worked  was about 30.4 hours per week, a increase from 30.1 hrs in April. The Stomach muscles said in its analysis that pretty much 2.3 million folks “were affected by possibly losing their work concerning April and May possibly, or operating minimized hours for economic factors in May”.

That was an improvement of about 400,000 from the comparable 2.7 million claimed in April. But it was nonetheless a great deal larger than people who obtained jobs in Could (yes, career development carries on even in the hardest of economic times).

The Abdominal muscles also uncovered that about 1.55 million folks worked possibly much less than their usual hours of do the job, or worked no hours at all, for “economic reasons” (that is, they were being stood down, there was insufficient do the job or no do the job offered). But of that 1.55 million, over 360,000 did no do the job at all in May well, sharply down in the 750,000 as well as documented in April and 1.2 million people today did some function of any type, up from 1 million in April.

The work sector is bleaker — but it may not get far too much bleaker before, hopefully, a recovery sets in.

Peter Fray

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