SEEK Employment Trends: spotlight on ACT

The nation’s capital is a city on the move. The construction of a new Light Rail system is boosting confidence across a range of sectors and experts say demand is up across the entire ACT. The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends also shows positive signs.

The ACT has recorded high levels of job advertising relative to the past five years and the trend has been increasing over the past four months. Jim Roy, Regional Director ACT at recruitment firm Hays, says the market is in a fine position. “The big picture is that the employment market is in a positive space in Canberra,” he says.

Roy explains that the change of Federal Government in 2013 led to a recruitment freeze in the public sector, which had a flow-on effect to other industries. “If government is not hiring, they're probably not getting IT updates or office fit-outs and therefore technology, property and construction companies were also affected,” he says. “Since the return of government after the election this year, market conditions in the ACT have looked good.”

Industries on the rise

The industry that experienced the greatest year-on-year increase in job ads in the ACT in September was mining, resources and energy. Job ads for the industry were up by 117%, however Roy suspects this may be coming off a low base. “It’s a very limited industry here,” he says. “It may be that national roles have been advertised in the ACT as well as other states. There are also some industry bodies that are typically based in the ACT and, while a role may be advertised in that sector, it is perhaps more likely to be around policy and lobbying rather than an operational role.”

The construction industry also saw an increase in job ads across the ACT, rising by 29% year-on-year. Roy points to a growth in residential construction in Canberra, as well as increase in public sector and infrastructure investment such as the new Light Rail system. “The project is costed at $800 million, which is massive for a city of less than 400,000 people,” says Roy. “It’s also giving great confidence to a range of people in other sectors.”

In related industries, trades and services also saw an increase in SEEK job ads of 54% year-on-year. “The growing population means that things like trades and services and ongoing maintenance increase as well,” explains Roy. “We also had a change of major contracts for the facilities and building management and big government departments after the election back in 2013, when they went to tender to get better prices. All of these factors have pulled together to make a really busy market, whether it's new sites or ongoing management.”

Leadership roles were also on the rise in the ACT, with job ads for CEO and general management up by 87%. Roy puts this down to overall economic confidence across the territory. “It's also a sign of candidate confidence that people with quite high salaries are prepared to move jobs,” he says.

Job ads for the ACT’s hospitality and tourism industry grew by 11% year-on-year. Deb Davis, Executive Director of Frontline Recruitment, is also seeing increasing demand across the industry. “There are new restaurants and cafes opening up, as you could expect in a good economy,” she says.

Canberra was planned and built specifically for use as the nation's political capital, so it’s good to see growth in public sector jobs across the ACT. Job ads for government and defence were up by 11% year-on-year and Roy says the industry has experienced significant structural change in recent times. “There's been a gradual increase year-on-year in government hiring. Defence, specifically, and defence suppliers have been experiencing long-term growth.”

A slip in some sectors

While the majority of industries experienced year-on-year growth across the ACT in September, some saw a decline. Job ads for the sales industry were down by 13% while consulting and strategy declined by 18%.

Job ads were also down by 6% in the information and communications technology sector. Roy says that this may be due to some companies in the industry putting a hold on recruitment in recent months. “The economy does hold its breath for a while when there’s a federal election on,” he says. “If you were hedging your bets about Labour winning government, they may have taken policies in a new direction and you might have needed to strategically reassess your organisation. This may have been the case with the ICT sector. I suspect there would have been a lot of business-as-usual positions during the election period.”

Job ads in the banking and financial services experienced a small decline of 2% year-on-year. “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 Roy. “

Despite a decline in a few industry sectors, job ads are generally on the rise in the ACT and Roy expects the growth to continue. “The market is in a good position and overall confidence is looking up,” he says.