Forecasting the Australian employment market continues to remain a lottery.
Despite a loss of 3,900 overall jobs in the economy in August, the national unemployment rate still dipped to a three-year low of 5.6 per cent as a result of fewer people looking for work during the month. This bucked predictions from most economists, which were for the employment rate to remain stable and for a gain of 15,000 new jobs in the economy.
The loss of jobs was across the part-time sector, reversing the trend seen in July which saw 11,500 new full-time jobs created. July’s increase was still not enough to replace the number of full-time job losses we saw in the economy in July. And perhaps more telling of the overall underlying softness of the job market is the fact that, despite the headline figures, underemployment rose to a new high level at 8.7 per cent. This indicates that a proportion of those who are employed are not getting the level of work they need, and that there is still much that needs to be done in the Australian economy to drive real jobs growth.
This volatility in the labour market may also be starting to impact the construction sector, which has until recently been one of the stronger jobs performers in across the country. According to data from indeed.com, jobs ads for the most commonly advertised roles in construction are now starting to inch down, with a three per cent decline in the number of construction jobs advertised since July 2015.
This is due in part to the lack jobs growth we are seeing in the major jobs markets of Queensland and South Australia, where unemployment rose, and the decline in jobs growth in Western Australia when compared to its boom period a few years ago and which has now stagnated. New South Wales and Victoria continue to be the country’s strongest performing employment growth areas but will need assistance from the other states if we are do see any further significant reductions in the overall Australian unemployment rate.
In order to reverse these trends, we will still need to see further government investment in infrastructure as other areas of the economy are still not providing strong enough jobs growth to support any decline in construction.
The good news for future construction jobs is that we have seen an increase in the overall number of roles advertised in the design and architecture sector and in project management sector. These are early indicators that there is more work in the pipeline that will fuel future jobs growth in the more labor intensive trades areas.
However, the lag in those new projects coming online is evident when you not only look at the number of jobs advertised but also the data relating to those looking for work. Key word searches on indeed.com significantly increased over the last 12 months, with the top 10 searches in the construction sector all generated by those looking for work in the trades and labour area.
Top job searches by key word
Perhaps most telling is the fact that 17.5 per cent of the key word searches are from those seeking an apprenticeship, further supporting the case that more needs to be done to reduce youth unemployment in Australia, which is more than double the national average.