The number of job vacancies across Australia fell by almost half in the space of only three months, leaving a growing pool of job hunters fighting for fewer roles.
In the three months ending on May 31, job vacancies in Australia fell 43 per cent – the single largest fall in the four decades the ABS has tracked the data.
In May, 93 per cent of all businesses said they had no vacancies at all.
That figure was worse for arts-related businesses, which reported close to no empty positions at all across the nation, following a 95 per cent decline in vacancies.
Other hard-hit industries include the rental, hiring, and real estate sector (down 68 per cent) and the accommodation and food services sector (down 66 per cent).
Indeed APAC economist Callam Pickering noted the ABS stopped measuring job vacancies for a five-year period during the Global Financial Crisis.
As a result, Australia may have had a similar decline in job vacancies around 2009, but there is no way of knowing for certain.
Either way, the latest drop marks a historic drop in vacancies.
And it comes as unemployment surges, with the latest ABS figures suggesting 7.1 per cent of those looking for work remain unemployed.
Those numbers have however been skewed by government support programs enabling some unemployed Australians to drop out of the labour force entirely, Mr Pickering told The New Daily.
The true unemployment rate discounting those programs – set to end on September 27 – would be closer to 11 per cent.
“There has been an increase in the number of people who are unemployed in Australia, but they’re competing for fewer roles,” he said.
It’s now become a lot harder to find a new job.’’
Green shoots poking through
Although job vacancies plummeted during the early parts of the year, Mr Pickering said there are signs things are beginning to turn around.
“We’re beginning to see a bit of a tick up in hiring activity more recently – that’s what we’re seeing on the Indeed website,” he said.
“That provides some optimism for the second half of the year.”
Fellow jobs site SEEK reported a similar experience.
The company noted that while job ads remain at only 68.3 per cent of their pre-coronavirus levels, they have increased since the lows recorded in April.
“All states and territories showed growth in job ad volumes in the last two weeks,” SEEK managing director Kendra Banks said.
Not all states are bouncing back at the same rate though, with Victoria and New South Wales weighing down the rest of the country.
Job ads in the two most populous states remain around 60 per cent of their pre-coronavirus levels, while other states are closer to 70 per cent.
Victoria also suffered the largest decline in job vacancies – down 51.9 per cent.
Now the risk of a second wave could jeopardise the state’s recovery.
“A second wave would set Victoria back to where it was in April,” Indeed’s Mr Pickering said.
“If Victoria experiences a second wave and the rest of the country doesn’t, then we’ll see very little increase in hiring activity in Victoria, but much stronger across the rest of the country.”