Canberra: The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Thursday published labour force data for January and revealed that the unemployment rate was stable at 4.2 per cent, equalling December as the lowest rate since August 2008.
However, the total number of hours worked by Australians fell by 8.8 per cent, or 159 million hours, from December as a result of surging Covid-19 infections, reports Xinhua news agency.
Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, said in a media release that the large fall in hours worked in January 2022 reflected more people than usual taking annual leave and sick leave in the first two weeks of January, which was a period with high numbers of Covid-19 cases associated with the Omicron variant, and considerable disruption across the labour market.
“While we again saw higher than usual numbers of people taking annual leave, even more so than last year, the 8.8 per cent fall in hours worked in January 2022 also reflected much higher than usual numbers of people on sick leave,” Jarvis said.
“Nationally, and in New South Wales and Victoria, the number of people who worked reduced hours because they were sick was around three times the pre-pandemic average for January. In other states and territories, it was twice as many people.”
The number of Australians employed on a full-time basis fell by 17,000 between December and January but was offset by a 30,000 increase in part-time employment.
The participation rate, which measures the portion of the total working age population in the active workforce, increased to 66.2 per cent, near the all-time high rate of 66.3 per cent recorded in March 2021.