the data behind Australia’s labour market: a closer look at post-pandemic recovery

Over the past three and a half years, we have been monitoring a comprehensive set of Australian economic indicators. This data, encompassing real estate, construction, automotive, employment, and retail sectors, paints a clear picture of how these industries are faring. Job listings are one of the measures we track, given their ability to provide deep insight into the current health of the business community.

Although Australia’s unemployment rate has remained low at under 4% for the past couple of years, this headline rate masks some significant structural changes to employment within this country. In particular, we need to consider factors such as varying immigration rates and locations, and the increasing number of Australians working multiple jobs due to cost-of-living pressures.

When we started tracking job listing data in June 2020, there were just over 80,000 on record. They reached a peak of just under 250,000 midways through 2022, growing an impressive 200% in the space of 2 years. This record high coincided with the bottoming out of Australia’s unemployment rate at 3.4%, highlighting how challenging it was for employers, as they struggled to source both skilled and unskilled labour. Since this high, the number of roles advertised has however dropped by almost a third, to just over 160,000 in April 2024. While this suggests a contraction in economic activity, the unemployment rate has stubbornly remained below 4%. The Reserve Bank of Australia does however predict that weakening economic activity will see it climb above this threshold by the end of 2024.

overall job listings

Looking deeper into the data, we can see that some industries rebounded strongly off the back of the challenging times they encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic and some saw more moderate growth.

Looking at the two years to June 2022, the largest growth in job listings came, somewhat unsurprisingly, from the Hospitality & Tourism sector. This was triggered by COVID-19 restrictions easing, and supported by various government stimulus packages that incentivized Australians to get back out there to travel and dine. Whilst this increase was a positive sign for the Hospitality & Tourism industry, many businesses struggled to keep up and hire workers, creating another level of pressure and stress for overworked business operators. Demand for workers in this industry has since cooled however, with the number of listings dropping from the peak of 21,657 to less than 10,000.

Hospitality & tourism job listings

In contrast, the Real Estate & Property and Banking & Financial Services industries exhibited more modest growth following the onset of COVID-19. This suggests that these sectors were more adept at adapting to the challenges posed by Covid-19, with the majority of their workforce seamlessly transitioning to remote work.

Services job listings

Shifting focus, another industry that experienced significant growth in job listings off the back of Covid-19 was the Trades & Services sector (encompassing construction, electricians, laborers etc.). This sector has also maintained a greater level of continuity since the end of the pandemic, having had the highest number of job listings since midway through 2020 (followed closely by the Healthcare & Medical industry). This is particularly important, as a healthy supply of trade workers is key to the successful delivery of the government’s ambition to build 1.2 million homes over the next five years.

trade job listings

Looking ahead to the rest of 2024, overall job listings are likely to continue easing in line with increasing economic pressure (and further growth in Australians working multiple jobs). Despite this, employers will continue to struggle to source skilled workers, and are likely to keep looking offshore as a solution. High immigration rates are therefore expected to continue over the short to medium term, with keen interest in the outcome of the current review into the Australian visa system.

If you’ve enjoyed this piece, keep an eye out for our regular updates on Australia’s economic indicators. Also remember that our b2b and consumer tracking research runs monthly. Click here to find out more, and feel free to get in touch if you’ve got questions that you’d like to answer.

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