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NSW has seen Australia’s fastest climb in the number of JobSeeker recipients over the past 5 years, despite the state’s success in managing the pandemic

Business Insider Australia logo Business Insider Australia 4 days ago Bianca Healey
a group of people on a city street: (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
  • The number of people receiving JobSeeker has increased the most in NSW over the past five years.
  • Information released by the Department of Social Services suggests increases to JobKeeper during the pandemic shielded people from the worst effects of the economic downturn, but did not reverse ongoing trends.
  • NSW has seen the number of people being paid JobSeeker climb by 58% since 2016.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

Despite the state’s comparatively successful handling of the lockdown, the number of JobSeeker recipients in NSW climbed at the fastest rate in Australia over the past five years, according to data from the Department of Social Services.

JobSeeker numbers released in March show that the number of unemployment benefit recipients in NSW increased by 128,000 since 2016, suggesting that the state’s actions in protecting residents from the worst economic impacts of lockdown did not reverse ongoing unemployment trends.

The data shows the hardest-hit suburbs were the most socially disadvantaged, with the majority in Western Sydney.

It found that the number of people being paid JobSeeker, the government’s unemployment subsidy that was previously known as Newstart, climbed from 221,946 to 349,824 in NSW between March 2016 and March 2021; a 58% rise on par only with Western Australia.

Nationwide the number of people receiving JobSeeker payments has also risen by 52% to 1.2 million in the past five years.

Across other states, Victoria climbed 54%; Queensland 51% and both South Australia and Tasmania 33%.

The government’s JobSeeker scheme was supplemented in response to pandemic lockdowns in 2020, with payments roughly doubled, a move that served to shield those who lost their job or were unable to find work during the nation-wide lockdown that began in March of last year.

A report released by the Productivity Commission in January showed that more than 155,000 Australians were spared extreme rental stress due to increased government support during the pandemic.

Prior to the supplement, the Morrison government had for years refused to raise the rate of the unemployment benefit, despite calls from advocacy groups that the amount was not enough to support Australians to successfully seek and move into paid work.

The increased JobKeeper payments ended at the end of March this year, a move that was met with fears that the economy hadn't sufficiently recovered to support those looking for work.

Those concerns have been largely assuaged, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg revealing this week that more than 150,000 people have come off JobSeeker benefits since JobKeeper ended in March.

While JobSeeker recipients peaked at 1.45 million in August 2020, this number dropped to 1.06 million in April this year.

However, while job listings were recorded as being up 75% in March compared to the same month in 2020, social services groups have also warned that dozens of JobSeeker recipients are currently vying for every one entry-level job listing.

Reflecting on the release, Bernard Salt, executive director of think tank The Demographic Group told the Courier Mail the data showed JobSeeker support during the pandemic was not enough to reverse ongoing challenges for those “who have fallen through the cracks,” he said.

Salt said the areas that maintained high unemployment were “dominated by unskilled workers, often young, often immigrants, and people trying to get their first job.”

“Social disadvantage does not change quickly in Australia,” he said.

“When you look at the profile of the workforce in those areas it’s dominated by unskilled workers, often young, often immigrants, and people trying to get their first job.”

While the national economy is already bigger than it was in early 2020, national JobSeeker numbers are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels before 2022.

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