SEEK Employment Trends: February 2016, new job ads up 5.7% from this time last year

The job market got off to a positive start for the year and the good news is that this trend continued throughout February 2016.

While there were peaks and troughs across industries, the year-on-year increase provides encouraging momentum as we continue into 2016. Data from SEEK Employment Trends showed a 5.7% year-on-year increase in February 2016 and 24 out of 28 industries on SEEK experienced increases in job advertising over the past 12 months.

Demand across industries

The government and defence sector was the clear winner for the month, growing 55% year-on-year in February 2016. There has also been an upward trend in average advertised salaries for the sector over the past four months reaching $88,939 in February 2016.

Matt Gribble, Regional Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand at recruitment firm Michael Page, says demand within this sector tends to be greatest where infrastructure spending is higher. “We’re certainly seeing this in states like NSW,” he says. “Any public sector investment requires people to manage it, so we are continuing to see a healthy demand in this sector.”

Demand in the education and training sector also experienced high levels of SEEK job advertising, with a year-on-year increase of 24%. “I think the strong levels of overseas student numbers is continuing to drive significant cash investment in this sector,” says Gribble. “Education is a very healthy sector in Australia right now.”

In the healthcare and medical sector, SEEK job ads increased by 15% year-on-year, with the average advertised salary sitting at $88,706 for February 2016. Demand in the call centre and customer service sector was also up by 13% year-on-year and its average advertised salary was $56,424.

However, not all sectors grew in demand. The insurance and superannuation sector was weak and declined by 6% in February 2016 compared to the same time last year. SEEK job ads in the banking and financial services sector were also down year-on-year, dropping by 9%. Despite this decline, demand across the sector has been stable over the past four months and the average advertised salary in February was $88,133.

Steve Shepherd, Employment Market Analyst and Director of Social and Public Affairs Asia Pacific at recruitment firm Randstad, has also seen a slight decline in demand within the sector. “We’ve seen some uncertainty around the banks and the financial markets in the past few months and I think that means organisations are just watching to see what happens and putting some controls in place,” he says.

SEEK job ads for the mining, resources and energy sector were relatively weak in February 2016, declining year-on-year by 7%. The sector’s average advertised salary was $113,315. “There’s no secret that the resources sector has been hit by low commodity prices,” says Shepherd. “They’ve had to make adjustments and I think they’re battening down the hatches.”

A view across the states

It was not all positive news across the states. The downturn in the mining sector continued to affect job demand in the resource-rich state of Western Australia. The weakness appears to be accelerating and the state registered a year-on-year decline in job ads of 20%.

While the mining and energy sector was down by 11% year-on-year, Michael Ilczynski, SEEK Employment Managing Director, notes that the decline in WA is across multiple industries. “With lower levels of advertising of this degree, it is likely to see the unemployment rate continue to rise in WA,” he says. “This is an idea reinforced by a continued rise in the number of applications for each job advertised in this state, which tends to be a leading indicator of the unemployment rate.”

Fortunately, positive results in the non-mining states managed to outweigh the decline in WA. New South Wales recorded a year-on-year increase of 12%, while SEEK job ads in Victoria rose by 7%. In Tasmania, demand was up by 11% year-on-year and South Australia also saw a lift of the 8% compared to the same time last year. Residents of our capital city will also be happy to hear demand in the Australian Capital Territory grew by 26%.

The Northern Territory saw a slight dip of 1% year-on-year, while job ads in Queensland grew by 4%, buoyed by relatively strong growth in some of the states non-mining areas over the past five years.

A mild growth in salaries

There’s been a moderate upward trend in average advertised salaries on SEEK since they hit a low point in 2014 and this trend was maintained by a further mild increase in February 2016.

Of the 28 industrial classifications on SEEK, 11 have recorded trend increases in average advertised salaries over the past four months – this is up from nine classifications last month. Industries showing the strongest increasing trends in average advertised salaries for February 2016 included administration and office support, government and defence, healthcare and medical, and information and communication technology.

Meanwhile, three industries continued to record a trend decline in average advertised salaries over the past four months. These were mining, resources and energy; manufacturing, transport and logistics; and engineering.

As the months continue to unfold, SEEK will continue to track employment trends across the country. It will be interesting to see how demand shifts across the industries and whether WA in particular can reverse its downward trend.

Stay up-to-date with the latest employment marketplace developments by signing up to the SEEK Employment Trends monthly email.