After sharp falls in 2018/19, employment levels throughout Australia’s construction sector are set to stabilise, the latest forecast suggests.

In its forecast unveiled at the DesignBuild Expo in Sydney on May 15, Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF) says it expects that the construction industry will have shed about 29,800 workers during 2018/19 to see employment levels throughout the sector drop to around 1.1 million.

This will have happened amid a decline in apartment construction along with the completion of significant dollar value resource projects such as the Shell Prelude liquified natural gas development.

Going forward, however, ACIF expects employment to stabilise as the fall in apartments is partly offset by stronger commercial building activity and a massive pipeline of capital works underpins demand for contactors and employees in civil construction.

This includes not just road and rail but also an increasing project flow in pipelines and electricity.

In 2019/20, ACIF says construction will add around 15,000 jobs to take overall building employment levels to 1.15 million.

Employment will remain at around these levels in 2020/21 and 2021/22, it adds.

“In those subsequent years, we start to see a pickup (in construction employment) in 2019/20, fairly steady in 2020-21 and 2021-22,” ACIF lead forecaster Bob Richardson said.

“It’s roughly finely balanced with not many peaks and troughs in those years.”

In its report, ACIF says it expects the overall value of construction work done throughout Australia to come in at $239.237 billion in 2018/19.

This is roughly 5.5 percent lower compared with the previous year – a phenomenon which reflects a 12.2 percent fall in engineering work associated with the completion of significant developments in heavy industry.

Going forward, it expects overall activity to remain almost unchanged at current levels of almost $240 million.\

Whilst residential building levels are set to fall by 5.8 percent in 2019/20 and further by 6.1 percent in 2020/21 – a decline which will be concentrated primarily in apartments – this will be offset by increases of 8.0 percent in 2019/20 and 5.0 percent in 2020/21 in engineering construction.

As well, non-residential building activity will edge up by 1.0 percent and 1.7 percent over the next two years respectively from levels which are already elevated following a surge in office, accommodation and educational building projects.

According to Richardson, demand for workers will be strongest in civil construction.

This includes civil engineering, earthmoving, pipelaying, mining and other areas.

Conversely, there could be some diminution in opportunities for those in areas which are exposed to high-rise residential projects.