SEEK Employment Trends: positive signs of growth seen across the Australian job market, with government and defence still at the forefront

The first month of Spring came with positive signs of growth for the Australian job market. The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows a year-on-year increase in job ads for September and experts say the market is flourishing.

SEEK job ads were up by 2.7% year-on-year and signs were positive across all states and territories with the exception of Western Australia. “After a notable month-on-month job ad increase of 3.7% in August on SEEK, this positive result didn’t continue for Western Australia in September with advertising falling 3.7% month-on-month and 19.1% year-on-year," says Michael Ilczynski, Managing Director for SEEK Employment. “However, across the East Coast in Australia’s largest employment markets the results were more encouraging, with job advertising on SEEK up 6.8% year-on-year in NSW and 5.3% year-on-year in Victoria this September.”

Industries on the move

Government and Defence led the way for the third month in a row with job ads increasing by 26% year-on-year and the average advertised salary was $93,161. Matt Jacobs, Operations Director with recruitment firm Morgan McKinley, say employers in the private sector are competing with the public sector more than ever for the best talent. “Over the past year or two, we've seen an uplift in really strong candidates moving into government organisations,” he says. “Government is often paying just as well, if not better at times.”

September also brought growth in job ads for CEO and general management, which increased by 23%. Jacobs notes that a growing number of leadership roles are being created, such as chief strategy officer and heads of innovation.  “We’re seeing more C-suite roles than ever before,” he says.

The engineering industry also recorded year-on-year growth in September with job ads up by 15% and the average advertised salary was $103,467. Luke Borg, Managing Director of Judd Farris, the property and construction division of recruitment firm Adecco Group, attributes this growth to a range of new infrastructure projects in cities like Sydney and Melbourne. “Since the results of the federal election, there’s been some momentum, which has been good,” he says. “I’m not surprised to hear that engineering opportunities are up because there are a lot of infrastructure projects that are continuing or have received the green light. You've got major projects in Sydney like the light rail and there’s also a lot of momentum around rail projects in Victoria.”

Borg adds that the construction industry is continuing strong growth across most of the country and this may account for the growth in job ads. SEEK data shows construction job ads were up by 12% year-on-year and the average advertised salary was $105,576. “Another trend that we’re seeing in this industry is a growing demand for part-time employment,” notes Borg. “It’s coming from both candidates and clients at the moment. It’s being driven by a growing desire for flexible working arrangements.”

The healthcare and medical industry also experienced a year-on-year increase in job ads of 11% and the average advertised salary was $88,598. Deb Davis, Executive Director of Frontline Recruitment, attributes the growth to the aging population. “The whole industry is growing,” she says. “I think it has a lot to do with the aging population who are using or may require more and more health services.”

A decline in some industries

While the majority of industries saw year-on-year increases in job ads in September, some experienced a slip. Job ads for accounting were down by 3% and the average advertised salary was $83,726. “I think there's still an increase in off-shoring of basic accounting roles,” says Bartlett. “Finance strategy or data analytics roles tend to be growing, however organisations have become very good at streamlining processes in finance.”

Job ads for sales roles were down by 11% and the average advertised salary was $80,897. Meanwhile, the banking and financial services sector recorded a year-on-year decline in job ads of 6% and the average advertised salary was $88,072. “A lot of banks have their financial year-end in September, so we generally don’t expect to see much movement at this time,” says Jim Roy, Regional Director ACT at recruitment firm Hays.

Trends across the states

September delivered positive news for Queensland with  job ads up month-on-month and while tourist regions such as Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are delivering the strongest results, Brisbane’s recovery remains slow.

Job ads in South Australia are showing considerable strength with an annual growth of 13.8% in trend terms.

NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are recording high levels of job advertising relative to the past five years. This trend has been growing for the past four months.

The ACT is also delivering positive results with job ads on the rise across most industries. “The big picture is that the employment market is in a positive space in Canberra,” says Roy. He adds that the new Light Rail project is also signaling good times for the territory. ““The project is costed at $800 million, which is massive for a city of less than 400,000 people. It’s also giving great confidence to a range of people in other sectors.”

Spring got off to a good start with job ads up year-on-year across most industries and states in September. Let’s hope the momentum continues.