As the benefits of the housing recovery in Australia flow through to the building sector’s workforce, new figures show a rise in job vacancies throughout the industry, though the number of vacancies are not overly high relative to recent historical levels.

Published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the latest data shows the number of job vacancies that existed within the construction sector throughout Australia rose by 4,000 from 9,900 as at November this year to 13,900 as at the end of February (not seasonally adjusted), and are 1,100 higher than levels recorded at the same time last year – an outstanding result in a period whereby overall vacancies throughout the Australian economy fell 4.1 per cent.

The figures follow earlier data showing construction sector employment surging to record levels amid a surge in employment in New South Wales as well as data released on March 31 showing new home sales rising to their highest level in almost four years.

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While this is widely considered welcome news from the viewpoint of the sector’s workforce, the latest data also highlights potential concerns regarding the potential for a looming shortage of workers and contractors in some areas as building activity continues to gather momentum.

Following the release of detailed employment data last month, HIA senior economist Shane Garrett warned that shortages were emerging in some skill areas where few traineeships and apprenticeships had been available such as bricklaying, tiling and roofing. Already, trade prices in bricklaying, carpentry and landscaping rose by more than the industry average of four per cent last year, according to the most recent HIA Trades Report.

Meanwhile, Australian Construction Industry Forum chief executive Peter Barda spoke of a significant shortage of tradespeople and skilled labour throughout the industry during the middle of the decade as building activity picks up.

While the new figures do not give a state-by-state breakdown specific to the construction industry, last month’s jobs data indicated that New South Wales was experiencing the strongest employment gains and that conditions continued to languish in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.