(Not) business as usual

By August 2020, the number of people employed and the hours people worked had begun climbing back up from the massive job losses from February to April. But neither the numbers of people employed nor the hours worked are back to the pre-pandemic levels.

59 %

The number of adults employed in August rose by 2% from May to 59%.


The hours worked in August rose by nearly 20 a week.

2.4 %

Those working no hours fell from 3.2% in May to 2.4% in August.

33 %

A third of the population worked fewer hours in August than they had in February.

Change in hours worked per week by age group, February to August 2020
Regardless of your basic or contracted hours, how many hours did you work last week in your main job, including any paid or unpaid overtime?
Sources & Methodology
Variable description By age group
Variable time span February to August 2020
Published by ANU Poll
Publisher Link
Data Source doi:10.26193/ZFGFNE
CSV Data
PNG Image
Nearly a third of the population, 32.6 per cent, worked fewer hours in August than in February.

The proportion of the adult population employed in August 2020 rose to 59.1 per cent after falls in April to 58.9 per cent and May to 57.1 per cent, but it is still well below the pre-COVID-19 level in February of 62 per cent.

The hours worked has followed a similar path. Average hours work fell from 21.9 hours/week in February 2020 to 18.7 in April and again to 18.5 in May. They rose slightly in August to 19.7 but still haven't caught back up to the February level. Much of the increase was driven by a reduction in the proportion of people who didn't work any hours in the reference week.

Those who worked no hours didn’t necessarily lose their jobs with a significant increase in the proportion of those employed reporting they were working zero hours. In February 0.8 per cent of employed adults worked zero hours. That expanded more than fivefold in April to 4.4 per cent, then started reducing to 3.2 per cent in May and 2.4 per cent in August.

Nearly a third of the population, 32.6 per cent, worked fewer hours in August than in February. Closer to half, 46.9%, worked the same number of hours. But just over a fifth, 20.5 per cent, actually worked more hours in those pandemic months than previously.

Women’s working hours fell by 2.2 per cent, which was greater than the fall for men’s working hours between February and August. Those aged 65-74 experienced the largest fall in hours worked with a 5.6 hour per week greater decrease in hours than those aged 35-44.

Those born overseas worked 1.7 fewer hours per week than those born in Australia. And the first six months of the COVID-19 recession had a greater impact on the middle part of education distribution with those who finished Year 12 but didn't have a university qualification working fewer hours than those with a degree and those who hadn’t completed Year 12.