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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 4 August 2021) . . Page.. 2298 ..


commentary and debate in the community about the initiative and its substance. Right at the moment I have a lot of things on my plate, not least of which is leading this territory’s response to a global pandemic. I apologise for getting it wrong on this issue. But right now, of all the things that we face, this is not in the top 10.

MS LEE: How much was spent on all the new and variable signage and the public information campaign, and how does this compare to the cost of sending out warning letters?

MR BARR: I will take that on notice.

Economy—employment

MS CASTLEY: My question is to the Chief Minister. On 22 June you gave a ministerial statement and said:

… our actions have meant that the ACT continues to be one of Australia’s strongest economies, with the strongest labour market in the country. Unemployment is currently 3.6 per cent, significantly below the territory’s decade average and, of course, the lowest in the country by a long way.

Just one month later, on 26 July, the Canberra Times ran a story with the headline “ACT’s job market is weakest in the nation,” with the quarterly CommSec report revealing unemployment had climbed to 4.9 per cent. ACT Treasury said 5,900 Canberrans had lost their jobs. Chief Minister and Treasurer, why have 5,900 Canberrans lost their jobs in the last month under your watch?

MR BARR: The monthly unemployment data is subject to considerable variation. It is a very small sample size and it is often back-cast and adjusted. A movement of that size is unprecedented. We looked at other sources of data, including the single touch payroll data, that indicates that there was a decline in employment, but not to the extent registered in that single month’s figure.

We are looking, obviously, at the situation. The unemployment rate in the ACT, according to that one single month snapshot, is the same as the Australian unemployment rate, so whilst the Canberra commentary would reflect the fact that normally unemployment in the ACT is lower than the national average, there is this one rogue figure. We will need more data to confirm that that is actually the case. I suspect there may be a downward revision. I do not know yet, so when we get the next set of unemployment data, which is due in a couple of weeks, we will have a better sense of whether this is a one-off anomaly or in fact a developing trend. If it is a developing trend then the government will seek to respond by creating more jobs, including in our budget in August.

MS CASTLEY: Chief Minister, how will these 5,900 unemployed Canberrans be able to find work, given the unemployment rate is well above the decade average?

MR BARR: Several weeks ago, before the Sydney lockdown commenced, the biggest single complaint from most industry sectors in the ACT was an inability to find


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