Australian labour force changes under the reduced mobility of COVID-19
The geographic mobility of labour has long facilitated a well-functioning labour market for Australia, being of importance in skill-matching and jobs in regional economies. Disrupting the long-distance labour commute, COVID-19 border closures and community lockdowns had an immediate and significant impact on the Australian labour market.
The aim is to understand Australian labour force demography and provide an empirical understanding of how regions, and their respective states and territories, faired through the pandemic.
Data and methods
Using Australian Bureau of Statistics SA4 level labour force participation and unemployment data, the paper highlights regional changes between 2018 and 2021 - covering periods immediately before and after the emergence of COVID-19. Its analysis is contextualised by the respective state and territory and employment conditions underpinning labour demand via proxies of gross national product and state and territory gross product, gross real income and job vacancies.
The paper finds variations in labour force change are dependent on regional industry economic profiles between and within states and territories. This was in part due to state and territory lockdown and border closure policies as well as respective industry economic profiles.
A more comprehensive mapping and understanding of labour force shifts over time will better capture the trajectories of regional labour markets. This will enable better targeting of specific policy outcomes at various levels of government, including to encourage industry diversity, support labour reskilling and the uptake of technologies. Such policies will be better placed to assist Australian labour force transitions post-COVID and efficient labour market functioning.