The real level of unemployment is higher in states and territories that have closed their borders to other parts of Australia.
Australia’s official unemployment rate stood at a 22-year high of 7.5 per cent in July.
A Treasury analysis, however, showed the ‘effective unemployment rate’ – which also includes workers receiving $1,500 a fortnight JobKeeper wage subsidies to stay home – was 9.9 per cent.
Across most of Australia this real level of unemployment, taking into account those who have a job but are working zero hours, has fallen since April, during the first full month of lockdowns.
The Northern Territory was the exception with the effective unemployment rate rising from 11.2 per cent in April to 12.1 per cent in July – the highest in Australia despite the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Re-elected Labor Chief Minister Michael Gunner promised during the election campaign to bar Australians from COVID-19 hot spots for at least 18 months.
Victorians and anyone who has been to greater Sydney aren’t allowed to set foot in the NT and Mr Gunner suggested more places could be added to the black list.
‘We’re much more likely to add spots than remove them, we’ve got an indefinite ban on Victoria and Sydney keeps bubbling away to the point where I can’t give you a date where that will ever lift,’ he said last week ahead of Saturday’s election.
Queensland has Australia’s second-highest effective unemployment rate of 11.4 per cent.
Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, facing an election on October 31, is banning residents from New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory from entering her state, even though Canberra has had zero cases since July 10.
Regional areas of NSW also have active COVID-19 cases in the low, single digits.
Tourism-dependent Queensland has an even higher rate of effective unemployment than the 10.5 per cent figure for Victoria, where Melbourne and the neighbouring Mitchell Shire are in a strict, Stage 4 lockdown with an 8pm to 5am curfew.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said state border closures were delaying the economic recovery.
‘There is still a long way to go through this crisis and high frequency data is showing signs that the jobs recovery may be slowing as state border closures have been tightened,’ he said.
The ACT, which has no border restrictions for those outside Victoria, has Australia’s lowest effective unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent.
Intriguingly, Tasmania had the second-lowest effective jobless rate of 7.9 per cent – even though anyone who has been COVID-19 hot spots in Sydney and Brisbane must obtain written approval to enter the island state.
NSW is only banning Victorians and had an effective jobless rate of 8.5 per cent – a level also below the national average of 9.9 per cent.
Western Australia which is barring everyone except designated workers and those with compassionate reasons, also has a lower-than-average effective unemployment rate of 9.8 per cent.
South Australia, which requires visitors NSW and the ACT to self-isolate for 14 days, also had an effective jobless rate of 9.8 per cent.