SEEK Employment Trends: spotlight on Western Australia

Western Australia has experienced tough times since the downturn of the resources industry. However, the latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows signs of a slight improvement. Experts say innovation is now the state’s most valuable asset and this may fuel more positive times ahead.

Michael Ilczynski, Managing Director of SEEK Employment, says that the Western Australia jobs market revealed an improving trend this July. “Our SEEK trend data suggests that labour demand in WA may be stabilising, which would be good news for the overall Australian economy and jobs market,” he says.

Even a small improvement is welcome news for WA businesses, according to Ryan Hathrill, West Australian Director of recruitment firm Robert Walters. “We’re almost not allowed to use the word ‘boom’ in WA anymore because it makes people get depressed about the old days! Conditions are still weak here, but it’s bottomed out so that’s leading to consistency. The upside is that it can’t get any worse, so the only way is up,” he says.

Innovation on the agenda

Earlier this year, Western Australia Premier and Science Minister, Colin Barnett, announced a boost to WA’s innovation sector in the 2016–17 State Budget. A $20 million package, with a focus on creativity and digital technology, has been designed to broaden the state’s economy and make it a regional and global innovation centre.

Brodie McDougall, Regional Director of recruitment firm Michael Page, says that although the market in WA remains challenging, there is a growing appetite for innovation and entrepreneurialism across the state. “We’re starting to see companies investing in other areas outside of mining and they are starting to diversify,” he says. “This is very much in line with what companies on the east coast were doing right after the GFC.”

McDougall adds that as companies broaden their focus, there will be a growing demand for new talent in the market. Overall, SEEK data shows a high level of candidates in the WA market, relative to the past five years, and the number has been increasing in recent months. This means employers may have more talent to choose from.

“The biggest asset for these companies is always going to be people because it’s people who will be driving innovation,” says McDougall. “You need to invest in new skillsets if you want to diversify. Many of the jobs that have come out of mining haven’t been replaced as yet within non-mining sectors but they are definitely moving in the right direction.”

A snapshot of the sectors

Data from SEEK Employment Trends shows that WA’s government and defence industry was out in front in July 2016, with SEEK job ads growing by 25% year-on-year.

“The government put a hiring freeze in place for a couple of months earlier this year,” explains Hathrill. “That has lifted now so undoubtedly you’ll be noticing more activity in this sector. Education and healthcare are the biggest drivers in the government sector right now.”

SEEK job ads for the advertising, arts and media industry also experienced an increase in WA, rising by 11% year-on-year in July 2016. “I think this is one of the really good news stories in WA,” says McDougall. “Because we’ve been so focused on mining for so long, there hasn’t been that appetite for media or digital marketing. Now, it’s a natural evolution as companies are looking to diversify, they’re investing in these areas.”

SEEK job ads for the WA’s farming, animals and conservation industry also grew by 13% year-on-year, while SEEK job ads for the legal sector rose by 2%. “There’s a real shortage of legal secretaries at the moment,” says Hathrill.
The state’s construction industry saw the greatest year-on-year decline in SEEK job ads, which were down by 46%.

“If we go back a year, the level of construction was almost at unprecedented highs and now I’d say it’s normal,” says Hathrill.

SEEK job ads for retail and consumer products also declined by 16% year-on-year, and human resources and recruitment was down by 34% compared to the same time last year.

When looking at WA’s mining, resources and energy industry, McDougall is seeing positive signs of growth within key areas of the industry. “We’ve seen an interest in roles for geologists, for example,” he says. “It’s exciting to see some companies looking to invest in mining exploration again after the past 2–3 years, which have been so quiet.”

Meanwhile, the state’s banking and financial services industry experienced a year-on-year decline in job ads of 34%. “Banking has been down substantially in WA,” says Hathrill. “Banks go through cycles when they cut back and don’t replace roles. However, in the instances where banks are recruiting, we’re seeing a big push for gender diversity in senior roles.”

Although WA continues to face challenging times, the latest data from SEEK shows promising signs of improvement for the state’s employment market. As more companies look to diversify their offering, innovation is firmly on the agenda.

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