SEEK Employment Trends: January 2016, opportunity lies in the east

It’s always good to start a new year on a positive note. The news from January 2016 is that the employment market is looking up. Data from the SEEK Employment Trends report showed a 6% increase in job ads compared to the same time last year, although some sectors and states were well ahead of the game.

Demand across the states

The decline in the resources market continued to weaken job growth in Western Australia for the month. The state experienced its fifth consecutive monthly fall in job ads and was down by almost 19% on January last year. Year-on-year growth in the state was limited to just a few sectors, including sports and recreation, legal, education, general management, and science and technology.

While job ads were up in Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory, they were down in the Northern Territory and remained flat in Queensland, where a growing strength in non-mining sectors, such as hospitality and tourism, was weighed down by the resources slump.

“Economies that are resources reliant are trying to rebalance, although it’s not happening as quickly as we’d like,” says David George, ‎Managing Director Western Australia and Victoria at recruitment firm Michael Page. “But there are still plenty of bright spots out there.”

These bright spots include the large labour markets of New South Wales, which saw a 13% year-on-year increase, and Victoria, where demand grew by 9% from January last year. The design and architecture sector showed strong demand in both states, with a 33% year-on-year increase in New South Wales and a 36% spike in Victoria over the same period.

“We continue to see the impact of the strong property market play out in creating jobs across New South Wales and Victoria, with design and architecture, trades and services, and construction all posting strong double digit growth,” says Michael Ilczynski, SEEK Employment Managing Director.

Industries on the move

Government and defence was a stand-out sector for January 2016, with job ads showing a year-on-year increase of 44%. Companies also displayed a strong demand for leadership roles, with the CEO and general management sector up by 22% compared to the same time last year.

Demand in the healthcare and medical sector increased by 6% compared to the same time last year. “This may be down to our growing ageing population,” says George. Meanwhile the hospitality and tourism sector grew by 4% year-on-year. “The low Australian dollar is really helping,” adds George. “People are less inclined to go overseas for their holiday and it’s cheaper right now for international tourists to come to Australia.”

Large advertising classifications, such as banking and financial services, administration and office support, information and communication technology, and accounting remained steady or recorded a small year-on-year growth in January 2016.

Andrew Morris, Director New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand of recruitment firm Robert Half, believes these sectors will pick up in the months ahead. “What we’ve been seeing for the past 12 months or so is that companies are finding opportunities for recruitment due to growth, whereas prior to this it was due to employee turnover.”

Growth in part-time and contract roles

While the full-time job market saw a modest year-on-year growth in January 2016, the relatively strong trend continued for non full-time roles, such as part-time, casual, contract and temp roles.

George says part-time roles, in particular, are now seen as opportunities for companies to attract and retain the best talent. “Part-time work is on everyone’s lips because every major organisation is talking about diversity,” he says. “While part-time work isn’t just for women, it’s certainly attractive to mums returning to work. There is a big demand for it because organisations know they’re not retaining women as much as they should. I think it’s a really positive move for everyone.”

Salaries stabilise

Although salaries experienced a mild increase following a significant decline from 2012 to early 2014, January 2016 data suggests that they have now stabilised. “At this stage, we’re seeing similar kinds of salaries as we were seeing this time last year,” says Morris. “But it’s only early days.”

Average advertised salaries for the month showed increases in sectors including administration and office support, government and defence, hospitality and tourism, healthcare and medical, call centre and customer service, and community services and development.

Sectors such as mining, resources and energy, and farming, animals and conservation, showed an easing in salaries. The engineering sector also saw a minor decline in salaries over the past four months. George attributes this to the weakening of the resources sector.

“Salaries ramped up when engineers in Victoria or New South Wales were jumping on planes to Queensland or Western Australia to be paid a hell of a lot more,” he says. “As people are now returning to their home states, it’s bound to have a cooling down effect on the overall demand and that has an impact on salaries. It’s not that salaries have come down so much in Victoria or New South Wales, it’s just that they’re not as inflated as they were in the resources boom.”

Although sectors were up and down in January 2016, Morris says the overall results appear promising. “The market is moving forward,” he says. “It will be interesting to see how it’s placed in the months ahead.”

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