Employment in the design and construction sector throughout Australia has surged to new record highs, the latest data shows.

Detailed quarterly labour force data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicates that the number of people who are employed within the construction sector throughout Australia increased by 27,600 during the three months to February to go from a previous record of 1.295 million in November to a new record of 1.322 million in February (seasonally adjusted).

At this level, the sector has added 146,200 workers or 12.4 percent of its workforce over the twelve months to February alone.

According to the data, over the twelve months to February:

  • Almost half of the growth in construction employment has come from Victoria, which has added 66,900 workers or 21.8 percent of its construction workforce. This was followed by New South Wales (39,600 workers or 10.9 percent of its construction workforce) and Queensland (21,900 workers or 9.0 percent of its workforce). In purely percentage terms, meanwhile, the ACT led with 31.7 percent year on year growth (4,000 workers) followed by Victoria (21.8 percent growth).
  • Almost all of the workers added (144,000 of 146,200) were full-time workers. (This includes full-time permanent employees, full-time contract staff and workers who are self-employed on a full-time basis).
  • Not surprisingly, civil infrastructure led the charge as massive road and rail projects have moved into construction. Over the past year, employment in heavy industry and civil construction has surged by a whopping 37.0 percent or 38,900 workers. Employment growth was less strong but still healthy in construction services (10.9 percent or 82,600 workers) and building construction (7.6 percent or 23,800 workers).

The latest data comes as Australia’s construction sector is undergoing a period of strong activity which is driving demand for skilled workers.

Largely speaking, this is being driven by a record program of public investment on massive road and rail megaprojects across major cities.

For work on publicly funded infrastructure projects alone, a dashboard maintained by Infrastructure Australia projects that the number of workers who are needed will peak at a record 305,600 in September this year.

This, the agency projects, will lead to a peak shortfall in public infrastructure workers of 111,800.

Meanwhile, activity is also strong in detached home building as the industry works through a record pipeline of projects.

This is expected to keep builders and tradespeople busy throughout 2023 notwithstanding recent signs of a slump in new home building demand.

Chris Kent, Regional Director of recruitment and workforce specialist solutions provider Hays, said the sector is experiencing a surge in hiring and vacancy activity.

Across various disciplines, Kent says significant worker shortages are evident for:

  • Estimators, Contract Administrators, Project Managers and Site Managers in construction.
  • Urban Planners, Project Architects, Senior Design Architects, Revit Documenters and Senior Interior Designers in architecture.
  • Geotechnical Engineers, Drafters, Civil Designers, Structural Engineers, Mechanical Engineers and Electrical Engineers in engineering.
  • Plumbers, carpenters and electricians in trades.

Going forward, Kent said demand for workers will remain strong throughout 2023.

“The current level of demand is expected to continue throughout 2023, thanks to investment in the sector as well as the ongoing skills shortage,” he said.

“Skilled migration has increased recently, however demand still outweighs supply for experienced staff. Overall, this year skilled and reliable professionals are in a strong position to choose the roles that best fit their skills and career goals.”

Finally, the data indicates that the construction sector appears to be making gains in improving the gender balance and diversity of its workforce.

Over the twelve months to February, female employment in the sector expanded by 15.7 percent or 23,800 workers (not seasonally adjusted).

By contrast, employment of males grew by a slightly more modest 12.0 percent or 122,600 workers.

Over the longer term, improvements in this area are evident but appear to be gradual and slow.

Over the past five years, the data indicates that the ratio of men to women who are employed throughout the sector has declined only modestly from 7.0 to 1 in February 2018 to 6.5 to 1 in February 2023.


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