What you need to know about the Australian job market this year
What does the new year have in store for Australia’s job market? SEEK’s job ad data from 2018 reveals a number of trends that may shape the months ahead.

Australia’s 2018 job ad market was neatly divided into two halves. It got off to a roaring start with monthly double-digit year-on-year growth and then changed gears with a rapid softening to single-digit growth. 

While hiring activity continued to increase throughout the year, it moved at a slightly slower pace than 2017. This saw more Australians employed, with the unemployment rate falling from 5.5% to 5.1% during the year.

Top drivers of demand

There were five key industries that enjoyed the lion’s share of activity in 2018, contributing to more than 48% of year-on-year job ad growth.

While Trades & Services continued to occupy the top spot, largely due to increased demand for automotive trades and electricians, the Mining, Resources & Energy industry slipped from second place in 2017 to fourth place last year. 

Adama Abanteriba, Senior Analyst, Customer Analytics at SEEK, says that demand for mining is growing by approximately half the rate of 2017. “We’re still seeing growth in demand for mining, but the relative size of the healthcare industry has allowed it to leapfrog the mining sector, with respect to contribution to growth,” he says. 

Healthcare & Medical came in third place (compared to fourth in 2017) while Information & Communication Technology recorded even greater demand, reaching second place – a significant leap from tenth position the year before. 

Meanwhile, Hospitality & Tourism claimed the fifth spot, up from seventh in 2017.

In fine health

Demand for healthcare workers is on the rise and the Healthcare & Medical industry remains the largest employer in Australia. 

Kate McCormack, Group Executive Director People, Learning & Culture at Mercy Health, says there is “war for talent” across the sector. “We are a people business and our doors never close,” she says. “The attraction, retention and utilisation of the workforce are our greatest strategic challenges.”

Mercy Health employs more than 9,000 people who provide a range of health services including acute and sub-acute hospital care, aged care and mental health programs.  

McCormack says Mercy has developed new strategies for attracting talent, particularly aged care workers. This includes looking for life skills for its “Care Companions”, who provide care and support for residents at its new aged-care home, Mercy Place, in the regional Victorian centre of Ballarat. 

McCormack explains that candidates are assessed for emotional intelligence, high levels of digital literacy and cultural competence. “This is our new aged-care worker,” she says.

A drag on demand

While industries such as Healthcare & Medical forged ahead in 2018, SEEK’s job ad data also reveals the sectors that lagged behind. 

Construction plummeted from its top-five position in 2017 to rank to 19th, while Sales dropped from 18th to 28th place and Real Estate & Property declined from 20th to 24th.

Abanteriba notes that the decline in the Construction industry is somewhat surprising as the large public infrastructure pipeline was expected to offset the softening in the residential housing sector.

Abanteriba adds that hiring in the Real Estate & Property sector is primarily driven by activity in Sydney and Melbourne, which has seen a significant decline over the past year. 

“However, regional centres have been more immune from these falls, with Victorian centres like Bendigo, Geelong and Ballart still seeing strong hiring activity,” says Abanteriba. “The commercial real estate sector, in contrast to the residential sales sector, is also performing strongly.”

The biggest movers

Construction was a notable absence in the top five list in 2018. Much of the decline occurred in the second half of the year and Abanteriba predicts that this will continue into the first half of 2019.

Despite the slip across the sector, employers such John Holland are continuing to experience strong demand for construction talent.

“We employ more than 4,400 people and are hiring an average of 150 people every month,” says Luke Jones, Group Manager – Resourcing at John Holland.

The construction and engineering giant works across a diverse range of sectors, such as infrastructure, transport, property, health and education.  

“There is an unprecedented level of major infrastructure being planned and built in Australia, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne. We hired more than 1,500 people in these two areas in the last year alone,” says Jones. “For us, it is important our people are up for the challenge of delivering for our customers and communities.”

Tasmania the stand-out state

Western Australia benefited from resurgence in the Mining, Resources & Energy industry to record 17% growth, which was well above the national average of 11%. However, Tasmania was the stand-out state for 2018. Job ads in the Apple Isle climbed 27% to secure its place as Australia’s fastest-growing market.

Adam Barker, Hays Business Director for Tasmania, says demand for talent in the state “noticeably increased” last year.

“This increase was strong across all sectors and less industry specific than recruitment spikes in previous years,” he says. “In addition to strong economic indicators, Tasmania is enjoying a period of increased cultural, social and artistic activity resulting in a sharp increase in tourism and business confidence.”

While Tasmania raced ahead, Victoria remained in the middle of the pack with growth of 13%. The state has been the greatest contributor to national job ad growth, outpacing its larger rival NSW over the last four quarters year-on-year. This is largely due to Victoria’s investment in public infrastructure and Melbourne’s strong population growth figures. 

What’s in store for 2019?

Abanteriba predicts that hiring will continue to soften in the months ahead. “I think we’ll see this particularly in sectors such as Real Estate & Property and in Retail & Consumer Products, as consumer spending has been quite soft.”

In growth sectors such as Healthcare & Medical, employers like Mercy Health are expecting fresh demand.

“The productivity commission has estimated that the aged-care sector will need to employ almost one million workers by 2050,” says McCormack. “We are constantly sourcing new and innovative ways to secure a workforce.”  

Jones says employers must develop a positive workplace culture to attract and retain the best talent for the year ahead.

“John Holland re-branded in 2018 to become purpose-led,” he says. “Attracting the right people was central to this. Gone are the days when companies could just focus on what they do and how they do it. People want to know what a company stands for. This is a new concept in the infrastructure space, where the focus has traditionally been on what we build and how we build it.”

What does 2019 have in store for the job ad market and will it become another year of two halves? Whatever the result, it may be worth reviewing your recruitment strategy for the months ahead.