Many newly unemployed Australians say they have all but given up hope of finding a job, with fewer opportunities coupled with the steepest monthly rise in unemployment in the nation’s history.
On Thursday, following the announcement of the labour force figures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “Almost 600,000 jobs have been lost, every one of them devastating for those Australians, for their families and communities.”
“A very tough day, terribly shocking, although not unanticipated.”
But it is of little comfort for some – including one 21-year-old job seeker, unable to receive Centrelink and who simply cannot find a job.
“Everything is dead. There is sort of no point looking,” she said.
The University of Melbourne student has been looking for work for three months after the coronavirus pandemic stripped her of most of her shifts at a retail chain in Melbourne.
Some weeks she lives off one shift.
“There is no job market. Everything is closing down or laying off staff. Everything around me is shutting down. There was a job going at a store close to me [but] it was gone within a day,” she said.
She said the financial stress had been giving her anxiety.
“I’ve started going to therapy. Worst-case scenario if my shifts don’t pick up, and my parents can’t help out with stuff, I will have to move home to Tasmania.”
The New Daily spoke to several job seekers who said they had given up looking for the moment, as the market was overcrowded and there were hardly any jobs in the fields they were qualified – namely retail, hospitality and the arts.
Others said they were trying to stay positive, but they’d had no calls back from prospective employees.
Hundreds of applications. Few calls
Dhruv Jalan has applied for almost 300 kitchen jobs.
He’s had only four calls back.
“I was already employed at a restaurant … which made me stand down without pay … till 30th June, while they continue to operate,” he said.
“I am still their employee just not working now … but they are like ‘we understand that you might work someplace else to support yourself’.”
He has four years experience, including an Honors degree in culinary arts from the University of Huddersfield in England.
But because he is on a bridging visa, job hunting has been even more difficult.
To save money he has cut down on meals.
“I just eat one meal and rest. I try to drink a lot of water and milk,” he said.
Leith Ramsay, managing director of recruitment agency Michael Page, said job openings in the past month were attracting three times the number of applications as usual.
“I could easily say we’re getting double to triple the responses that we would have two to three months ago,” he said.
“We’re seeing hundreds of applications.”
He said there had been a small job increase in areas like technology, manufacturing and logistics, but many companies were waiting it out.
“April felt like two very different halves. The first half was a free fall. The second half, there was a little bit of optimism, but overall a significant drop in a number of new jobs.”
Lay off staff or just wait it out?
Laurie Williams runs a boutique automation recruitment company.
He said some in the industry were laying off staff while others tried to wait it out.
“I know layoffs are happening. I know some employers have reduced salary and all sorts of measures to survive,” Mr Williams said.
“What I’ve seen personally is very little activity.
“My larger corporate clients are sitting on their hands at home and the retail guys are struggling to try and make it to the next week.”
The pandemic has an extreme impact on the job market, with job search website SEEK reporting a 65 per cent decrease in new job ads posted on the site in April compared to the previous year.
New South Wales and Victoria were the hardest hit in April, with job advertising down 52.4 per cent and 56.3 per cent respectively compared to March.
But there are small signs that it was picking up, with job advertisement data from the first two weeks of May showing marginal improvement.
In the week ending May 10, job advertising was down 59.7 per cent compared to the same week in 2019.
But at the lowest point in April – the week ending April 19 – there was a job posting decline of 69.1 per cent compared to the same week last year.
SEEK ANZ managing director Kendra Banks said the small increase in the number of ads posted in May was tentatively encouraging.
“It is encouraging to see that we may be at a turning point in the employment market as the latest figures in May point to an easing in the rate of job advertising decline,” she said.
“April was the first full calendar month where we had a clear indication of how coronavirus was impacting the employment market.
“This 10 per cent shift means we may have turned a corner after reaching a particularly low point of decline.”
Although there were more jobs on offer, she admitted candidate numbers continued to be high.
“As job ad volumes start to slowly return, candidate applications remain high, making the job-seeking process even more competitive than usual.”