Almost 23,000 jobs have been created in design and building throughout Australia as the employment market in construction shows encouraging signs going into 2021.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, quarterly data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that the number of people employed throughout Australia’s construction sector increased by 22,900 or 2.0 percent to go from 1,160,300 (1.160 million) in August to 1,183,200 (1.183 million) in November.

Excluding seasonal adjustments, construction employment rose 2.0 percent from 1.153 million to 1.176 million.

Employment throughout the sector has now almost returned to pre-COVID levels.

According to the data (not seasonally adjusted), across the construction sector:

  • Full time employment rose by 41,900 from a low of 956,400 in August to near pre-COVID levels of 998,300 in November. Part time employment dropped by 18,300 from 196,100 to 177,800 after previously spiking in May and August.
  • Queensland was the strongest market as the state added 11,100 workers or 5.0 percent of its workforce. South Australia added 8,900 workers or 13.4 percent of its workforce whilst Victoria and New South Wales added 7,100 workers (2.4 percent of total) and 4,600 workers (1.1 percent of total) respectively. Employment dropped by 7,100 workers or 5.6 percent of the total in Western Australia to post-GFC lows of 117,500 workers and contracted by 1,000 or 6.1 percent in the Australian Capital Territory. Employment levels remained unchanged at post GFC lows (8,900 workers) in the Northern Territory.
  • Employment in building construction rose by 24,100 or 7.2 percent (359,600 workers) and by 17,100 or 2.4 percent in construction services (714,800 employees). Employment contracted by 18,000 or 15.1 percent in heavy and civil construction (101,200 employees) but remains at historically elevated levels in this sector.

The latest report follows job vacancy data from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment which suggests that hiring picked up over the second half of the year after bottoming out in June.

According to that data, online job vacancies for construction managers, architects/landscape architects, civil engineers and industrial engineers increased from 1,570, 335, 872 and 330 in June to 2,467, 503, 1,373 and 537 respectively in December.

Over that same period, trade related vacancies for carpenters/joiners, painting trades workers, plumbers and electricians rose from 446, 190, 575 and 917 to 1,045, 509, 928 and 1,830.

The upturn in construction employment is being driven by an improving market in new detached-home building and home renovations along with elevated levels of activity in civil construction.

This is happening notwithstanding softer conditions in multi-residential building and commercial construction.

In new home-building, the overall volume of new home sales over the three months to November was up by 41.1 percent compared with the previous corresponding period in the three months to November 2019, according to data from Housing Industry Association.

In home renovations, meanwhile, October building approval data indicates that the value of large-scale renovations, extensions and alterations of residential dwellings which was approved over the three months to October was up by 11 percent compared with the same period in 2019.

The improvement in new home building (especially in low-density housing) and home renovations is being driven by largely by the Commonwealth HomeBuilder program and is further being supported by low interest rates, an improving housing market and a shift in preference toward lower density housing following COVID.

In commercial building, however, the value of building approved in the six months to October was down compared with the previous six months to April to the tune of almost ten percent.

Meanwhile approvals for multi-residential dwellings (units, townhouses, apartments) were down by 12.5 percent over the three months to October compared with the three months to October 2019.

The latest data also follows the identification of multiple job hotspots in design and construction by recruitment company Hays.

This includes residential drafters, environmental planners, urban/town planers, residential estimators, site supervisors, commercial site managers, control systems engineers, civil designers, civil and structural engineers, domestic HVAC technicians, plasters and plumbers.