Job vacancies in Australia in May 2021 were 57 percent higher than February 2020, prior to the start of the pandemic, according to new seasonally adjusted figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
Bjorn Jarvis, head of Labour Statistics at the ABS, said that job vacancies continued to increase and were up by 23 percent over the quarter.
“There were around 362,000 job vacancies in May 2021, which was higher than we have ever seen in Australia. This was 69,000 more than February 2021 and 132,000 more than February ,” Jarvis said.
In May 2021, 22 percent of businesses reported at least one vacancy, double the level in February 2020, which stood at 11 percent.
“There has been a steady increase in the proportion of businesses reporting at least one vacancy, after it fell to 7 percent in May 2020, early in the pandemic. By August it was already higher than the start of the pandemic (12 percent), rising to 15 percent in November, 18 percent in February and 22 percent in May 2021”, Jarvis stated.
Growth in job vacancies is mostly in the private sector
“Businesses across all industries have reported difficulties in filling vacancies.”
The growth in Australia’s job vacancies over the quarter was concentrated in the private sector, which accounted for 66,000 (96 percent) of the increase.
By industry, the largest percentage increases in job vacancies since February 2020 were in Arts and recreation services (170 per cent), Accommodation and food services (159 per cent), and Rental, hiring and real estate services (144 per cent).
The elevated level of job vacancies in May was echoed in the recent release of the Business Conditions and Sentiments report from the ABS, which noted that 27 percent of employers had difficulties in finding staff in June.
But all may not be quite as it seems, say economists
But all may not be as it seems. Callam Pickering, an economist at jobs portal Indeed Australia, told The New Daily newspaper that vacancies were high for jobs traditionally done by migrants – who are now mostly unable to enter the country – and Australians are unqualified or unwilling to do these jobs.
“A lot of industries rely on skilled migration to fill some roles, particularly in tech, health care and professional services,” he said. “That’s contributed to a mismatch between jobseekers and jobs offered.”
There’s also an apparent mismatch in pay, with The New Daily quoting ANZ Bank economists as saying that employment for the middle- and second-lowest-earning job groups is below pre-Covid levels.
The consequence is that workers with skills corresponding to those income levels are worse off than those in the lowest and highest income brackets, where jobs have recovered to pre-Covid levels.