Labour force figures released today by the ABS show that seasonally adjusted employment surged in November, by an unprecedented 366,100 (or 2.9 per cent) to stand at a record high of 13,177,300, exceeding market expectations. Employment is now 181,800 (or 1.4 per cent) above the level recorded in March 2020 (when Australia recorded its 100th case of COVID-19). Employment for women rose by a robust 215,200 (or 3.6 per cent) in November, accounting for nearly 59 per cent of total jobs growth over the month.Full-time employment increased by 128,300 (or 1.4 per cent) over the month, while part-time employment rose by 237,800 (or 6.1 per cent).The rise in employment at the national level was primarily driven by strong increases in New South Wales (up by 179,800 or 4.6 per cent) and Victoria (up by 141,000 or 4.3 per cent), reflecting the easing of restrictions in both states. Importantly, employment rose in all states and the ACT. Against this backdrop, the level of unemployment fell by 69,400 (or 9.8 per cent) over the month, to 636,700 in November. The unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percentage points over the month, to 4.6 per cent in November, well below the 5.3 per cent recorded in March 2020. The easing of restrictions and strong labour market conditions encouraged 296,800 people to enter the labour market in November, pushing the participation rate up by 1.4 percentage points, to 66.1 per cent in November, above the 65.9 per cent recorded in March 2020. Encouragingly, employment for youth increased by 122,900 (or 6.9 per cent) over the month, accounting for around one-third of the rise in overall employment in November. The youth participation rate also rose considerably over the month, up by 3.7 percentage points, to 70.1 per cent in November 2021, the highest rate recorded since March 2009. The ABS has noted that most people remained attached to their job during the Delta lockdowns, and to a greater extent than was the case earlier in the pandemic, which meant that as restrictions were eased many people were able to return quickly to work. This resulted in a rapid recovery in employment and participation between October and November. Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business, Stuart Robert, said today’s figures reflect the large rebound in labour market activity, as businesses have been able to reopen under the National Plan, particularly in the most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria. ‘Today’s figures demonstrate the National Plan is working—Australians are getting on with their lives safely, but there is more to be done,’ Minister Robert said. ‘We remain cognisant of the Omicron variant, but it is pleasing to note that online job advertisements are at a 13-year high, while the NSC’s latest Recruitment Experience and Outlook Survey results show employer expectations around increasing staff numbers have hit a new peak. ‘This shows Australia’s continued prosperity is depended on ensuring we continue to stick with the National Plan.’ In addition, the Morrison Government is building the workforce of the future with the right skills to meet the demands of the economy and community, as well as the agility to rise to the opportunities presented by emerging industries. ‘As part of MYEFO, the Morrison Government has announced a range of measures designed to help Australians connect to meaningful employment and inform and empower industry to play the important role of attracting and retaining employees,’ Minister Robert said. ‘We will spend $8 million to increase the number of Job Fairs in regional and metropolitan areas and connect more Australians with local jobs. We will expand the successful Launch into Work program to $74.7 million worth of projects to be funded each year to prepare job seekers for vacancies through work experience, training, and mentoring. We will also expand the 1800 CAREER service to Australians aged 25 and older who are self-managing their search for work using the Government’s online employment services. ‘We will work to fast-track entry into the workforce through the apprenticeship and traineeship sector by investing $10.5 million over the next three years to work intensively with the New South Wales and South Australian governments to pilot novel approaches to accelerate qualification completion time.’ ‘We will also look to those who have migrated to Australia, and how we can support them to take up work in areas of demand which our domestic workforce is unable to fill. We will spend nearly $20 million through to 2023-24 to deliver faster, cheaper skills assessments which will acknowledge the valuable skills migrants have brought with them and their ability to contribute to the Australian workforce. Our targeted migration settings will continue to be considered holistically, informed by Australia’s broader domestic workforce objectives to ensure they complement each other.’ Minister Robert said the new measures announced as part of MYEFO would complement the Government’s existing programs, with all job seekers and those looking to reskill and upskill benefitting. ‘Our vision for skills reform and a funding model that provides national consistency for students, underpinned by improvements to the collection, timeliness and transparency of data across the Vocational Education Training (VET) system, will ensure we’re training Australians with the right skills to get the jobs in demand,’ Minister Robert said. ‘We will also ensure jobactive providers take a stronger, more proactive brokerage role in identifying local employment opportunities and referring job seekers to suitable work. Both job seekers and jobactive providers must be outcome-focused, with providers working closely with their region’s Employment Facilitator to develop strategies that better connect job seekers with local business needs, and support job seekers to upskill so they are ready to take up work when opportunities arise. ‘From 1 January 2022 through to June 2024, we will provide over $49 million to double the number of places in The Skills Checkpoint for Older Workers Program and increase the number of Skills and Training Incentives available, to assist older Australians to adopt a lifelong approach to learning, upskilling and reskilling, all while reducing their reliance on income support. Minister Robert said the Morrison Government is committed to providing strong incentives and support for older job seekers to remain engaged in the labour market. ‘Aged pensioners who choose to re-enter the workforce or increase their work hours will benefit from an easier return to the Age Pension if they exceed the income limit due to their employment and will be able to keep their Pensioner Concession Card for two years,’ Minister Robert said. The Morrison Government would also invest $10 million to develop an integrated data tool which would deliver a comprehensive, near real-time, regional view of Australia’s workforce, skill, and labour market. Moreover, the Government is continuing to back Australia’s small business-led recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic by extending the SME Recover Loan Scheme by a further six months to 30 June 2022. To date, around 80,000 loans worth approximately $7.3 billion have been provided to businesses since the scheme commenced in March 2020. The extension of the scheme will continue to provide unprecedented support for SMEs and help even more businesses get access to the funding they need to adapt, innovate and bounce back from the impacts of the pandemic.