23 Jun 2020

Employment confidence at lowest in 16 years, but unemployment might not get as bad as predicted

11:52 am on 23 June 2020

Employment confidence is at its lowest level since 2004 due mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown.

Tired or stressed businessman sitting in front of computer in office

Confidence among employees working in the public-sector has dropped 19.9 points to 88.8 and in the private sector by 12.1 points to 85.9. Photo: 123RF

The Westpac-McDermott-Miller Employment Confidence index fell 12.9 points in the June quarter to 87.3.

Westpac's chief economist Dominick Stephens said the results confirmed recent anecdotal evidence and showed the effects of the novel coronavirus had been felt widely.

''People are saying they are earning less, they are worried about their future job security and they think jobs are going to be hard to get.''

They were a little less pessimistic about the future, he said.

''But they still think earnings will be low and prospects for employment will be bad in a year's time.''

Confidence among employees working in the public-sector dropped 19.9 points to 88.8 and in the private sector by 12.1 points to 85.9.

Confidence was down 16.8 to 84 points and rural areas by 9.5 points to 89.8.

Westpac Chief Economist, Dominick Stephens.

Dominick Stephens. Photo: Wespac Bank

''No area has been touched by this massive drop in confidence,'' Stephens said.

''This time it is much more even across genders, regions and also across ethnic groups."

The pandemic was unlike a typical recession as it was reaching into areas that might not normally be sensitive to the economic cycle, he said.

He expected unemployment to reach about 8 percent in the September quarter.

''We are expecting another wave of layoffs as the wage-subsidy starts to roll off.''

Eight percent would be the country's highest unemployment rate since the 1990s.

Stephens said the employment confidence index was probably the one thing that had behaved roughly how it was expected to.

''It has been quite negative and people have been very worried about their job security.''

However, Stephens said the recession was not shaping up to be quite as severe as it was initially forecast.

''My initial forecast was that the unemployment rate would rise to 9.5 percent and I think evidence since then has suggested that although we are going into a severe recession, it may not be quite as bad as had initially been expected, and that is why my new unemployment forecast is only 8 percent.''

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