The chilling effect of Victoria’s rolling lengthy lockdowns can be seen in one important number, which has increased nearly 50 percent during Covid. The number of people receiving welfare payments in Victoria, the most locked-down place globally, had risen by almost 50 percent since the initial coronavirus outbreak early last year. A startling 81,853 more people received Jobseeker or Youth Allowance in August this year than February last year — an increase of 46 percent.
176,611 recipients wearing Newstart payments – the former name for Jobseeker – and Youth Allowance across Victoria in February 2020, before the worst of theic hit.
Eighteen months of rolling lockdowns and restrictions later, that number skyrocketed to 258,464 in August, according to data from the Department of Social Services.
The figures have continued to climb in the state in recent weeks, with 1.9 percent more people receiving Jobseeker or Youth Allowance in August compared to July.
According to the ABS, there were 149,100 unemployed people in Victoria in August – more than 100,000 less than the number of people receiving Jobseeker and Youth Allowance.
The difference was likely that recipients were unable to work the same hours compared to before the pandemic and needed to claim benefits to cover their living costs.
While Australia’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.1 percent in August to 4.5 percent, the change was attributed to fewer people participating in the workforce rather than an overall more robust labor market.
“The fall in the unemployment rate reflects a large fall in participation during the recent lockdowns, rather than a strengthening in labor market conditions,” ABS’s head of labor statistics Bjorn Jarvis said. “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen large falls in participation during lockdowns — a pattern repeated over the past few months. Beyond people losing their jobs, we have seen unemployed people drop out of the labor force, given how difficult it is to actively look for work and be available for work during lockdowns. This has also coincided with a temporary pause in mutual obligations for jobseekers living in lockdown areas.”