October 2020 – Working in the recruitment and staffing industry, I’m regularly asked about employment trends and market information, so here’s my blog to answer that question for the here and now.  My opinions are based on my day-to-day recruitment activities which includes regular meetings with senior executives to discuss their staffing plans and budgets, along with candidate interviews where we discuss individual job search experiences and feedback from my team of recruitment professionals. 

But don’t just take it from me.  I’ve also gathered information from research conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Federal Government’s Economic Recovery Plan, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and SEEK analytics.  So here we go!

What’s hot (or at least lukewarm)?

Although Australia’s unemployment rate of 6.9% in September 2020 is significantly higher than the 5.3% it was a year ago, the job market is starting to improve.  After a big jump in unemployment from May to April (5.2% to 6.4%), then climbing further to 7.5% in July, we’ve seen a cautious confidence evolve, as we transition out of the first phase of the Federal Governments Job Keeper safety net into a staged reduction in government support to employers. 

Most executives I’ve been speaking with (note: largely Queensland centric) are determined to retain their key employees and bring in new talent over the coming months, albeit, via a thorough recruitment process to mitigate the risk of making a bad hire.  We are seeing a trend in hiring contractors as a “try before you buy” scenario, with the view to taking them on permanently, once on-the-job performance has been assessed.

Nationally, the monthly leading indicator of employment has risen for the fourth consecutive month in October 2020, following eight consecutive monthly falls, which “reflects the rebound in business investment and economic activity in Australia” (source link).  This tentatively indicates “that cyclical employment could grow above its long-term annual trend rate in over a year’s time”.

The most recent month-by-month job advertising data from SEEK (August to September), shows job ads in Australia have increased across 28 out of the 30 job classifications.  The biggest increases in job ads are within:

  • Trades and Services – particularly Automotive Trades, Hair and Beauty Services, Electricians, Labourers, Gardening & Landscaping.
  • Hospitality & Tourism – most notably Chefs & Cooks.
  • Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics – especially Road Transport and Warehousing.
  • Retail & Consumer Products – Retail Assistants in most demand.
  • Education & Training – Secondary Teachers in particular.
  • Sales – Sales Representatives & Consultants are most in demand.
  • Government & Defence – especially State Government.

Here at Optimum Consulting Group, during the Covid-19 period so far (March to October), our monthly job vacancy data tells a story of a big decrease in recruitment (April), followed by four months of consistent, yet conservative hiring activity, then a big upswing in September, back to pre-Covid level.  Our temporary and contract recruitment has remained steady, whereas demand for permanent hires has fluctuated. 

What’s not?

In 2020 many jobs types have suffered badly from the impacts of Covid-19, particularly those in the travel, hospitality and entertainment industries.  As the State borders open over the coming weeks and months, we will see an improvement in these critically important sectors. 

The most recent SEEK advertisement data (Australia) from August to September shows a reduction in advertisements in two job classifications:

  • Insurance & Superannuation – this is only a mild decrease (-0.03%).
  • Real Estate & Property – down 0.19%.  The biggest decrease was in residential leasing and property management, followed by Residential Sales, whereas Body Corporate and Facilities Management increased.

Personally, I’ve seen Optimum’s demand for Accounting & Finance roles decrease over the past six months, whilst IT & Digital and Administration demand has remained steady, with the growth areas being Engineering along with Mining, Energy & Resources.  

I anticipate IT & Digital and Construction will be the big recruitment growth areas for us in 2021.

The Show Must Go On

Just as individuals endeavour to sustain reliable employment and income at this time, companies and institutions too, are looking for ways to remain viable and survive.  I’ve had several discussions over the past few weeks with various business owners and employers in the midst of budgeting season – their challenge is to forecast revenue in an incredibly uncertain world.  I know from my own experience how tricky this is with all the variables that could change things in an instant, but, the show must go on. 

The Federal Government’s Economic Recovery Plan for Australia, outlines a further $98 billion in the 2020-21 Budget, in addition to the $257 billion already provided to cushion the blow of Covid-19, so I hope the extreme measures being undertaken, not only rebuild our economy, but provide the catalyst to working smarter in the years ahead.

Ben Walsh
General Manager – Recruitment

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