Job Vacancies Collapse A Record 43% To 2005 Levels

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

It should be no surprise that given the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, and massive job losses, that we learned on Thursday that the number of job vacancies collapsed in the three months to May.

And yet the data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing a 43% slump in vacancies – back to a low last seen in 2005 was shocking.

That 43% slump easily topped the previous record drop, of 27%, recorded in the three months to November 1990 during the last recession.

There were 129,100 vacancies at the end of May, down from 227,300 at the end of February this year and 227,900 at the end of May 2019.

The ABS said Job vacancies in the private sector fell 45% and 29% in the public sector.

“Additional ABS analysis showed that 93 percent of businesses reported no vacancies at all in May 2020, up from 88 percent in the previous May. This was particularly high in the Arts and recreation services industry (close to 100 percent), and the Accommodation and food services industry (98 percent),” The Bureau said on Thursday.

The bureau’s head of labour statistics, Bjorn Jarvis, said three industries had suffered the biggest falls in vacancies during the period, which coincided with coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.

Particular industries are taking the brunt of job losses. Manufacturing dropped 68,300 jobs over the period, taking the number of workers to 852,800, its lowest level in records going back to 1984.

Across the arts and recreation services sector, vacancies collapsed by an unparalleled 95% as theatres, cinemas, TV, and movie production (and commercials) were all halted. Employment fell to its lowest level since 2004.

Yesterday’s $250 million arts assistance package (there’s around $80 million in assistance from the states) is clearly not enough for the sector given the large slump in employment – especially when most of those losing their gigs were not entitled to JobKeeper.

Vacancies fell by 68% across the rental and real estate sector and by 66% for accommodation and food services as travel tourism and other activities were halted – especially with travel blocked over Easter, Mother’s Day and Anzac Day.

Employment increased 24% in the electricity, gas, water and waste services sector, but there was not an increase in hours worked. The ABS attributed this to a change in working arrangements.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing employment increased 9% (good rains boosting crops such as horticulture and grapes), and there were increases in the financial and insurance sector (4%) and public administration and safety industry (3%).

But the bureau noted a drop in the number of firms in every industry sector reporting job vacancies and that’s the problem for the future – fewer employers for a while offering few, if any jobs.

Glenn Dyer

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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