Australia's unemployment rate in June climbed to the highest in 22 years as workers re-entering the workforce were unable to find jobs, official data showed on Thursday.
The unemployment rate shot up to 7.4% in June, from 7.1% in May, and the highest since November 1998, according to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The participation rate increased by 1.3 percentage points from May to 64%, the most since April, as people not working because of the COVID-19 pandemic began seeking jobs.
That meant the jobless rate rose even as employment surged by 210,800 in June following declines in April and May. Economists polled by Reuters had expected an increase of about 112,000 jobs.
The employment rise was underpinned by a large increase in part-time jobs and a further decline of 38,100 in full-time work.
The figures highlight the economic damage wrought by the pandemic as strict mobility restrictions forced business to shutter since late March.
The economy began reopening in late May as Australia managed the coronavirus spread, helping businesses to re-hire.
As a result, monthly hours worked in all jobs increased by a 4% in June though they were well below March levels. The average hours worked per employed person was around 31.1 hours per week, up from around 30.4 hours in May.
Australia is facing its first recession in nearly three decades with the country's central bank predicting the jobless rate to hit 10% by June and stay elevated through 2021.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has gone all-in by cutting rates to a record low of 0.25%, flooding the financial system with cash and even buying government bonds to lower borrowing rates for business.