In 2014/15, governments across the country made a commitment to kick start jobs growth via the construction sector.
For the large part this paid off, with demand highest in the eastern states, helped further by residential “property booms.” It seemed for the most part that jobs across the construction sector were in fact a lead indicator.
The growth in demand for both white and blue collar construction talent through the Randstad recruitment business started to reflect in improvements in the unemployment outlook for Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a 72 per cent increase in the number of new jobs in 2015 compared to 2014 and jobs growth in November was the highest in over 13 years. These might all seem to be positive signs for the year ahead, but 2016 looks like we could see the same roller coaster ride for the jobs market that seems to have become the new normal, as jobs across the construction sector look set to ease.
We are facing another round of business uncertainty that could be further fuelled by speculation around the impact of future policy in what is a federal election year. Already in 2016 we have seen employment uncertainty continuing to play out across the resources sector with the ongoing fall of commodity prices and high profile large scale redundancies at Queensland Nickel.
In addition, the uncertainty that surrounds organisations in the retail sector (Australia's largest employment sector) such as Dick Smith and Masters, is likely to impact job seeker confidence as well as employer confidence in the coming months. This will likely create challenges for not only demand but also for supply with job seekers showing signs through the Randstad Mobility Index that they are less willing to consider changing jobs in 2016 than they were in 2015.
We expect demand for white and blue collar construction jobs to be highest in Melbourne, followed by Sydney. The monthly Seek Job Index shows demand is highest across design and architecture (up 32 per cent on December 2015), while year-on-year demand for trades was up an impressive 14 per cent.
In 2015, the construction sector took up most of the heavy lifting in the jobs market as our economy continued its transition from its reliance on the resources sector. In 2016, however, it is likely other sectors will need to step up as we are starting to see some slowdowns in demand in the construction sector and speculation around this is being further fueled as the Australian Industry Group's Construction Index continued to decline through the second half of 2015 and into January 2016. All eyes will be on the January and February job figures as we look to see whether the gains of October and November 2015 have been carried over in to 2016 as we emerge from the summer holiday period which is a traditionally slower job market.