The latest jobs data shows urban electorates are now being hit hardest by COVID-19

New ABS data on firm payrolls shows the changing shape of job losses from COVID-19. Previously hard-hit rural electorates in Queensland and NSW with large tourism industries have regained some jobs, while many urban electorates are now among the hardest hit.

Hard-hit rural electorates are recovering as hospitality and retail reopen

Our previous analysis of job losses to mid-April showed that rural electorates, particularly those in Queensland and NSW with large tourism industries, had lost a greater share of jobs than city electorates.[1] Then, nine of the 10 hardest-hit electorates were held by the Coalition. Tanya Plibersek’s inner-city electorate of Sydney was the hardest-hit Labor electorate.

Now, new data to 30 May shows that previously hard-hit rural electorates recovered some of their lost jobs through May. For instance, the electorates of Cowper and Lyne on the mid-north coast of NSW recovered nearly half of their lost jobs between mid-April and the end of May. The electorates of Fairfax and Fisher covering the Sunshine Coast in Queensland also bounced back a bit. In mid-April, they had lost 10.4 per cent of the jobs they had in mid-March; by the end of May, that figure had fallen to ‘only’ 7.6 per cent.

Job gains since mid-April have been strongest in hospitality and retail, which regained 7.3 and 3.4 per cent of the jobs lost since 14 March.

Overall, firm payrolls to 30 May show job losses from COVID-19 have slowed. Total payroll jobs increased by 1 per cent through May, with 7.5 per cent of jobs lost since mid-March, compared to 8.9 per cent in the week ending 18 April. Most electorates gained jobs between 18 April and 30 May.

Urban electorates are now the hardest hit

The new data show that nine of the 10 hardest hit electorates are now either inner- or outer-metropolitan. Eight of the top 10 are held by Labor, and the remaining two are held by the Greens and an independent. The electorates of Melbourne (held by the Greens’ Adam Bandt) and Sydney (held by the ALP’s Tanya Plibersek) are the worst and second-worst affected electorates.

Many of the-hardest hit electorates in urban areas have suffered further job losses since mid-April. One reason is the sharp fall in second jobs, which in part reflects the fact that JobKeeper payments are limited to a single job for an individual employee. People who live in inner-city electorates are more likely to hold multiple jobs.

Another explanation of the figures is the shift in job losses towards industries more heavily focused in urban areas. For instance, the information media and telecommunications sector suffered big job losses between mid-April and the end of May, from 8.5 per cent to 10.5 per cent. Job losses in professional, scientific, and technical services also increased over that period, from 4 per cent to 4.4 per cent. These ‘second-round’ job losses may well intensify even as job losses from COVID-19 in sectors directly affected by spatial distancing continue to dissipate as the economy reopens.

The worsening story in inner-city electorates also reflects data revisions from the ABS, especially around JobKeeper. For example, the share of jobs lost in the electorate of Sydney were revised from 8.9 per cent to 10.8 per cent for mid-April. Jobs lost in the electorate of Melbourne were revised up to 10.1 per cent, from 7.8 per cent previously, and from 7.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent in the inner-city electorate of Wills in Victoria. These data revisions reflect the impact of JobKeeper itself, including expanded coverage of smaller employers through the ATO’s single-touch payroll system since it’s the mechanism for delivering JobKeeper payments, as well as other refinements of the ABS approach.

Note and underlying data

You can download the underlying data on federal electorates ranked by the share of jobs lost as well as the regional classification, state and sitting member here.

As noted above, the ABS has also revised its earlier data releases. As a result, the change in payroll jobs between 14 March and 18 April has also changed since our previous Blog post. To show the effect of the revisions, we include both our old and new estimates for the change in jobs between 14 March and 18 April in the data sheet provided.

[1] Grattan Institute previously estimated the COVID-19 job-loss story electorate by electorate between the week ending 14 March and the week ending 18 April, using ABS data on the share of payroll jobs lost in each large sub-state region (called a Statistical Area 4, or SA4).

Co Authors :

Researcher at Grattan Institute