SEEK Employment Trends: the public sector led the employment pack in May 2016

The Federal Government may have entered a caretaker period with the announcement of the election last month, but there was still plenty of activity within the public sector.

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows that government and defence led the way for SEEK new job ads in May 2016, growing by 52% compared to the same time last year.

However, the good news wasn’t just isolated to the public sector but also spread across the employment market in May 2016. Overall, SEEK job ads were up by 7.8% year-on-year and growth was experienced across all industries, with the exception of banking and financial services. Although mild overall tightening of the labour market continued, with applications per job ad increasing only slightly throughout the month. This meant the chances of finding the right candidate were even greater.

Experts describe the current market atmosphere as positive. “It feels very buoyant right now,” says Mike Dickson, NSW Director of recruitment firm Six Degrees. “It’s not surprising at all that job ads are up.”

Public versus private sector

Job ads for the government and defence sector have been increasing over the past four months and the average advertised salary in May 2016 was $89,563. Lindsey Monroe Ruth, Head of Marketing, Australia and New Zealand, at 
recruitment firm Adecco Group, says the 52% year-on-year increase for the sector matches the current experience in the market. “We’re actually seeing a growth in government jobs in Canberra,” she says. “We think that as the election is coming up, departments have budgets and allocations that they haven’t used so they are trying to get it all in before the election rather than waiting until afterwards.”
Dickson says the growth in activity in the public sector is creating greater competition for employers in the private sector.

“It’s increasing the war on talent,” she says. “In the private sector, if you have people attracted to the public sector, you need to think about how you can compete. Often this comes down to being sharper in your recruitment process. You can’t delay, wait or procrastinate and you need to have a compelling experience for candidates.”

An increase in construction

Australia’s construction boom continued to deliver year-on-year increases in job ads for related industries. SEEK new job ads for construction were up by 14% and the average advertised salary was $107,063. Trades and services increased by 17% and the average advertised salary was $63,838. Meanwhile, SEEK job ads for design and architecture grew by 18% and the average advertised salary was $79,520.

“The growth in construction is especially evident in Sydney,” says Monroe Ruth. “When you walk outside there are new commercial buildings going up everywhere.”

The manufacturing, transport and logistics industry also experienced a growth in job ads in May 2016 compared to the same time last year. Job ads were up by 12% and the average advertised salary was $73,031.

“You can read a lot of press about manufacturing and the headwinds that the industry faces but what you don’t see is how the industry is dealing with the changes,” says Dickson. “While this might mean more automation of processes, it also means that the skills required in the industry are changing and the roles are changing too.”

South Australia strengthens, while New South Wales and Victoria increase

May 2016 also delivered positive news for South Australia, where job ads continued to rise. “Looking at the trend data, there has been some relatively strong growth in job advertising on SEEK for South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, with strength in South Australia being a relatively new and welcome trend,” says SEEK spokesperson, Kendra Banks.

SEEK job ads were strongest in New South Wales where job ad growth increased by 13.4%, while in Victoria job ads were up by 10.6% compared to the same time last year. “Sydney is doing very well,” says Dickson. “It also attracts a lot of international talent, which can have the effect of raising the bar across the market. However, that population does tend to be transient – they may come in for two or three years, so you tend to have less tenure in some roles in Sydney than you do in cities like Melbourne. There is more turnover and vacancies as a result.”

New job ads in the Northern Territory remained stable in May 2016 while the level of job ads in Queensland were weak in areas exposed to mining. The downward trend in Western Australia also continued for the month of May. “We’re moving a lot of our business away from Perth and over to the eastern seaboard,” says Ruth. “Traditionally, we’ve been very successful in [WA] with the mining boom and now we’re having to find other solutions and other areas to shift into.”

Despite the continued weakness in WA, May 2016 delivered positive news across the majority of employment sectors in other states and industries. “The trends coming out of the SEEK data are spot on,” says Monroe Ruth. “There’s a lot of activity in the market right now.”

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