Vacancies Galore in Local Job Market

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

The strength of the jobs market was underlined on Thursday by data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing the highest proportion of job vacancies to unemployed people yet recorded.

The ABS said there were 480,000 job vacancies in May 2022, 58,000 more than in February of this year and 30% more than a year earlier.

Unemployment totalled 548,100 in May, down 155,800 from the May 2021 figure of 704,000.

That means there are now 1.1 people unemployed for every vacancy compared with a three to one ratio two years ago and just over a two to one ratio 12 months ago.

The ABS data shows the number of vacancies rose just over 110,000 in the year to May while the number of unemployed fell by nearly 156,000.

May figure this year was also more than double the figure for May 2020 which was in the middle of the first round of the Covid pandemic, lockdowns and huge job losses.

The ABS data showed big rises in vacancies over the year in NSW, Victoria, WA and Queensland. Most of the vacancies – 439,100 – were in the private sector and only 41,000 jobs were vacant across all levels of government.

Bjorn Jarvis, head of Labour Statistics at the ABS, said in the rise in t number of vacancies “reflected increasing demand for workers, particularly in customer facing roles, with businesses continuing to face disruptions to their operations, as well as ongoing labour shortages.”

In addition to a higher number of vacancies, the percentage of businesses reporting at least one vacancy also increased.

“A quarter of businesses reported having at least one vacancy in May 2022. This rate was more than double the pre-pandemic level in February 2020 (11 per cent), which highlights the extent to which businesses are finding it more difficult to find staff.

The largest growth in job vacancies was in Victoria, which increased by 18% over the three months to May 2022, followed by New South Wales (12%).

The ABS said that while job vacancies were considerably higher than before the pandemic in all industries, the extent of quarterly growth varied between industries.

The highest growth in vacancies over the quarter were in retailing with a 38% rise, information media and telecommunications services saw an 18% jump and there was a 16% rise in arts and recreation services.

This data will not calm the worried brows at the Reserve Bank. While the surge in prices helped explain the 0.9% rise in retail sales in May (and the 10.4% rise in the value of sales over the year), the job vacancies data shows that if anything, the jobs market is a lot tighter than the broader labour force data suggests.

At the same time as the vacancies data was being released, the Reserve Bank released its private credit figures for May and the year to May which showed another solid rise in business lending – up 12.9% over the year to help drive total credit up by 9% for the year.

Business lending has picked up sharply from the year to May 2021 when it was down 2%.

Housing credit was up 9% in the year to May. Growth in owner occupier credit eased to 7.9% from 8% but growth in investor lending rose to 6.1% from 5.8% in May.

Business lending has now been growing faster than home lending for the past four months.

That helps explain why the ABS said in commentary in another set of figures (the financial national accounts for the March quarter) that business lending is now growing at the strongest rate for two years.

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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