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Unemployment hits 21-year high

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show unemployment has risen to its highest in 21 years due to the effects of the COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Employment decreased by 227,700 people, down 1.8%, between April and May this year, with full-time employment decreasing by 89,100 people and part-time employment decreasing by 138,600 people.

Compared to a year ago, there were 237,900 less people employed full-time and 457,700 less people employed part-time.

This change has led to a decrease in the part-time share of employment over the past 12 months, from 31.7% to 29.7%.

The figures show woman and young people have been the worst affected by the crisis, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg labelling the figures as devastating.

"Female employment fell by 118,000, making up 52% of the jobs lost in the month of May," Frydenberg said.

"Young people, youth employment, fell by 103,000, making up 45% of those jobs lost in May. Youth unemployment is now at 16.1%.

"These are devastating unemployment numbers."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the past three months have been tough for Australia with the destruction of 38 consecutive months of job creation.

"As heartbreaking as all of these lives, stories are that are represented in these numbers, the sad truth is these numbers are not surprising in these circumstances," Morrison said.

"We are very aware of the significant blow that Australians are being hit with through the course of this pandemic."

While the figures are quite startling, they are a month behind and the Prime Minister said they do not reflect the gradual re-opening plan that is now in place and has been many business reopen.

"These figures were taken at a time, just before actually, the opening up of this three step plan that the states put in place, and that is of some comfort that we will see some Australians finding their way back into employment but I would not be seeking to overstate that," Morrison said.

"There is some comfort that can be taken from the fact that we are making our way back and we are on the road back and that we are taking steps, every single day."

Morrison said that while Australia is doing better than many other developed nations, the governments focus remains on rebuilding jobs.

"We cannot set our expectations on what is happening elsewhere in the world. Our expectations, the Treasurer and I, together with our government, is getting these Australians back into work, to getting business doors open, to continue to give Australians the hope and confidence of the road back that we are charting together, as a Government, together with other governments around the country," he said.

"These are our dark times, but I can see that ray of light, and I'm sure Australians can see that, too but we have to keep moving towards it and we've got to keep working harder each and every day."

Read our full COVID-19 news coverage and analysis here.

Read more: Prime MinisterTreasurerAustralian Bureau of StatisticsABSScott MorrisonJosh Frydenberg
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