Despite continued predictions that jobs in the construction sector in Australia have peaked and concerns about the impact recent global events might have on the construction sector, the October Employment statistics show a slightly different picture, with employers showing greater levels of optimism via increased hiring activity.
The national unemployment figure remained steady at 5.6 per cent, with 9,800 new jobs added to the economy last month. This was made up of an increase of 41,500 full time jobs and a loss of 31,700 part time jobs. These figures show again just how much the number of hours a person works impacts the growth and decline of part-time and full-time work month to month, with a 0.9 per cent rise in the total number of hours worked in October.
The unemployment data shows the number of people working now at its lowest point since 2006 with the participation rate (the number of people available for work, actively looking for work) now at 64.4 per cent.
On a state by state basis, New South Wales is still the strongest jobs market with the unemployment rate at 4.9 per cent and Western Australia tipping out South Australia for the dubious honour of having the country’s highest unemployment rate at 6.5 per cent.
Australian Bureau of Statistics October 2016 Unemployment Rate
However whilst we continue to see “swings and roundabouts” within the National Unemployment statistics each month, the outlook for the construction sector seems much rosier with the actual number of jobs advertised higher than this time last year, according to Seek, Australia’s leading jobs website. The total overall number of jobs advertised on Seek for the same period rose 3.9 per cent. However, this was boosted by the construction sector, which saw growth of 13 per cent when compared to October 2015.
The advertising trends, as expected, follow the state unemployment rates with construction job ads up year on year 25 per cent. However, the strongest growth was South Australia, where ads grew by 37 per cent. This indicates that South Australia, which has struggled to create new jobs in the past year, is starting to see the impact of the investment in construction and infrastructure within the State.
In Western Australia, jobs advertised declined by 27 per cent year on year indicating the continued loss of roles in the mining sector are not being replaced by civil, commercial and residential construction. This is a stark contrast to Queensland which, despite also being impacted by the decline in mining, has grown construction jobs by 19 per cent year on year.
According to the Seek Employment Report, all categories in the construction sub-classification are in demand. The greatest growth in advertised jobs is in health, safety and environment roles (37 per cent), plant and machinery operators (33 per cent) and contract management roles (30 per cent). Only quality assurance and control roles recorded a small decline (minus five per cent), though it is estimated this represents only one per cent of the total roles advertised with in the construction sub-class.
The Seek Employment Index also indicated slightly more favourable conditions for job seekers with a year on year increase of 2.9 per cent, meaning there are fewer applications being received for each role advertised. But again, this varies by state and reflects the national unemployment rates.
For some, this increase in the number of jobs and the decline in applications also presents good news on the wage front, where despite Australia’s annual wage growth sitting at a record low of 1.9 per cent, wage growth in the most in demand roles is on its way up as companies compete for the best talent.
The Seek Employment report shows that the average advertised salaries for contracts management roles advertised in October was $104,349, estimating $96,459, foreperson/supervisors $113,950 and health, safety and environment roles $105,432.
According to Nick Pesch, director of construction property and engineering for international recruitment firm Randstad, “companies are starting to offer greater wage incentives for high demand roles in order to secure the right people as without them the risk delays on key projects.”
He also noted that the job seekers are also starting to realise that they are in a sellers’ market and seeking higher wages when being approached about roles.