The latest jobs data released on Tuesday shows that the worst of the job losses are behind us, but that we still have a very long way to go to get back to where we were before the virus hit.
The decision by the Bureau of Statistics to introduce the weekly jobs and payroll data in response to the coronavirus has provided us with fascinating details of what happens in a recession.
The jobs data (which is not the same as the monthly unemployment figures, because that measures people employed, whereas this measures jobs) allows a very detailed look at what is happening.
And at least the news of late is sort of good.
We have now seen four weeks of jobs growth – not a lot of growth but growth nonetheless:
In the last week of May, the number of jobs in Australia increased 0.4% – the best growth since the first week of March, which was just before the economy hit the virus wall.
And jobs increased for all age groups except for those over 70, who, without being dismissive, account for a very small proportion of the labour force.
The story of job losses due to the coronavirus shutdown has very much been the story of the young and old, and of women.
Those under 30 and over 70 have clearly lost the most work. But across all age groups, women have seen their jobs disappear by more than have men:
The recent return of jobs has, conversely, mostly been about the increase in work for those under 20 and those nearer the retirement age. But for all but the youngest, men saw stronger job growth in the last week of May:
Women suffering greater job losses than men is also observed pretty much across all industries, and even in those cases where men have lost more jobs than women, the differences are minute:
The accommodation and food services sector, along with arts and recreation, has clearly been the hardest hit by the shutdown. Hotels, restaurants and theatres have mostly been off-limits or unused due to the massive drop in tourism because of closed borders.
The slow unwinding of restrictions has meant that this industry has seen the strongest recent growth of jobs.
In the last week of May, jobs in the industry increased by 2.1%, and since it hit bottom in the third week of April, the food and beverage service sector of the industry has seen a 12.7% growth in jobs, which sounds good until you realise that the sector lost 38% of jobs before it hit that bottom:
But it would be wrong to think the problem is only about women, and the young and elderly.
In the last week of May, men might have had slightly stronger jobs growth than women and, overall, men lost less work, but when we look at what has happened since hitting rock bottom in April, the story is more complicated.
For the most part, because women – and especially younger ones – were those who lost their jobs the most, they have also been the ones who have recovered work the most since the easing of restrictions:
But what is not happening is a return of work for men.
Male jobs fell 7.2% from peak to trough, but since then have only grown by 0.9%. In essence, while there has been a smallish bounce back of jobs for women (among mostly younger ones), for men there has been no bounce at all:
This highlights the difficult days ahead.
It is not enough to ease restrictions, and see the economy return to what it was. The economy was struggling before the virus, and the shutdowns have put stressed enterprises and projects to the ultimate test. Not all work that was around in February will be there once the restrictions are eased.
Even with the recent return of work, there are still more than 900,000 fewer jobs now than there were in March.
We have a long way to go before anything like normality in the workforce will be returned.
• Greg Jericho writes on economics for Guardian Australia