Searches for supermarket roles on jobs site Indeed increased 300 per cent in just two days in March.
The surge in supermarket job searches continued for the next 10 days and peaked on March 28 – the day after Woolworths said it was hiring 20,000 additional employees.
On the same day, rivals Coles announced it would hire an extra 5000 staff members after an initial recruitment drive totalling 7000.
Searches for supermarket jobs subsequently rose to account for 10.6 per cent of all job searches on Indeed AU, more than seven times higher than in January and February.
Indeed APAC economist Callam Pickering attributed the “frenzied search activity” – which amounted to “tens of thousands” of daily searches – to the massive number of jobs already lost to the coronavirus and the belief that supermarkets would remain open and in demand.
“It’s quite common for big companies to announce they’re hiring people and you don’t normally see this change in job seeker behaviour, so what it indicates is that there was a certain desperation from job seekers from the middle of March through to now,” Mr Pickering said.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, workers in the virus-ravaged hospitality and aviation industries ramped up their supermarket job hunts most after the coronavirus struck.
Supporting earlier data from ABS showing the virus has hit the hospitality and arts sectors hardest, separate Deloitte Access Economics research predicts the “accommodation and food services” sector will miss out on $8 billion in lost wages and profits between April 1 and July 31.
And chefs led the recent surge of job searches on Indeed – increasing their share of supermarket job searches by 0.73 percentage points after March 16.
This meant they were the 13th most common occupation to look for a job at a supermarket – up from 29th before the virus.
Bartenders (+0.59 percentage points) and servers (+0.59) followed in second and third.
Meanwhile, cleaners (-0.89 percentage points) and customer service representatives (-0.62) reported the largest falls in their share of overall supermarket job searches, but remain the most likely occupations to look for a job at a supermarket.
Since March 28, though, searches for supermarket roles have been gradually declining.
Mr Pickering said this is partly because the government unveiled a $1500-a-fortnight wage subsidy on March 30, and partly because most of the supermarket positions have now been filled.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the JobKeeper package will cost the budget $130 billion and help pay the wages of up to six million Australian workers.
So far, 540,000 firms have enrolled in the scheme – covering 3.3 million workers – and the ATO has said it is keeping a close eye on rorts.
When the scheme was announced, economists at Westpac bank revised down their forecast for the peak unemployment rate from 17 per cent to 9 per cent – based on the assumption that 80 per cent of businesses in the most affected industries claim the subsidy and 40 per cent of businesses in other industries claim it.
The Reserve Bank nonetheless expects the virus will slash Australia’s economic output by 10 per cent over the first half of the year, and the total number of hours worked by 20 per cent over the same period.
And although the bushfires and drought pushed up annual inflation in the March quarter to its highest level in almost six years, economists warn that deflation is just around the corner, which spells bad news for jobs and growth.