Workers, businesses wait on lockdowns before deciding next moves

Australian businesses and staff alike are waiting to see what will happen post the COVID-19 pandemic before deciding whether to increase staffing levels or change their jobs, government figures have shown.

Fresh from Australia reaching its lowest unemployment rate since 2008, the National Skills Commission (NSC) has shown businesses are taking on less staff as they wait to see what impacts lockdowns will have on their business.

In July 2021, the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that Australia’s official unemployment rate fell from 4.9 to 4.6 per cent even though restrictions in Sydney and Melbourne were prolonged.

While politicians rejoiced at news of a falling unemployment rate, Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS, said much of the decrease in unemployment was simply Aussies dropping out of the workforce.

“Early in the pandemic, we saw large falls in participation, which we have again seen in recent lockdowns. Beyond people losing their jobs, we have also seen unemployed people drop out of the labour force,” Mr Jarvis explained.

Much like workers deciding now is not the right time to look for work, businesses are adapting the same approach and are reducing the number of advertised positions.

The Internet Vacancy Index (IVI) decreased a further 3 per cent or 7,200 job advertisements, in July 2021 to stand at 232,600.

Job advertisements decreased in 34 of the 48 detailed occupational groups during July 2021.

Hospitality workers recorded the largest fall over the month (down by 2,500 job advertisements or 32.4 per cent), followed by food trades workers (1,400 job advertisements or 20.4 per cent) and general-inquiry clerks, call centre workers and receptionists (770 job advertisements or 4.3 per cent).

Unsurprisingly, NSW bore the brunt of these lockdowns, with advertisements in the hospitality sector down 65.6 per cent, while recruitment in other occupations fell by 38 per cent.

The research also showed that much like the initial drop in 2020 when COVID-19 lockdowns first began, lower-skilled occupation groups are likely to be disproportionately impacted by job losses.

As such, the NSC revealed that despite accounting for only 37.9 per cent of total job advertisements in June 2021, falls in recruitment activity for Skill Level 4 and 5 occupations made up 59.1 per cent of the total decline over the month to July 2021.

Unemployment likely to drop

Despite unemployment appearing to strengthen, AMP Capital’s Dr Shane Oliver has warned that the latest figures are the ‘calm before the storm’, with unemployment set to spike with lockdown restrictions.

Highlighting the timing of the current data, Dr Oliver opined “it would be wrong to take much comfort from this”.

“The timing of the reference period for the July jobs survey was mainly in the first half of July and meant that it was too early to pick up significant job losses in NSW (where employment only fell by -36,000), but it picked up a rebound in employment in Victoria as it reopened from its late May-early June lockdown but missed Victoria’s subsequent lockdown,” he said.

Article courtesy of Nestegg

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