Demand for workers drops as lockdowns bite

Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)


Employers are feeling the pinch from the coronavirus lockdowns in Australia’s two major states and the national capital, putting aside thoughts of expanding their staff.

Reserve Bank of Australia governor Philip Lowe warned this week the unemployment rate could rise in coming months as a result of the Delta variant outbreak having a material impact on the economy.

The unemployment rate hit a 13-year low of 4.6 per cent in July.

Preliminary figures from the National Skills Commission showed job advertisements posted on the internet fell by a further 5.6 per cent in August, the third consecutive monthly decline.

Jobs ads had reached a 12-year high in May.

The commission said the sharpest declines in job ads in August were recorded in jurisdictions currently in lockdown.

Ads fell by 9.2 per cent in NSW, nine per cent in the ACT and 5.9 per cent in Victoria.

Job advertisements are a pointer to future employment growth.

However, before these lockdowns took hold, venture capital-backed businesses were gearing up for a sustained economic recovery, with job vacancies among such entities more than doubling in the first half of 2021.

An Australian Investment Council survey found of the 3952 jobs on offer, almost half were in the financial technology sector.

Demand was also seen in health and medical services and the electric vehicles industry, including providing technology for EV charging stations.

“The significant growth of job vacancies at the end of June demonstrates the strong capacity of fast-growth businesses to create new industries and employment opportunities,” AIC chief executive Yasser El-Ansary said.

Meanwhile, separate Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed the proportion of employed people working more than one job increased to 6.5 per cent in the June quarter.

This was 0.6 percentage points higher than before the start of the pandemic.

ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said it was also the highest in 27 years, continuing the rebound from the record low of 4.9 per cent set during the depths of last year’s recession.

Economists expect the economy could contract by as much as four per cent in the September quarter as a result of current lockdowns.

But Dr Lowe anticipates the recovery will resume in December quarter, saying the setback from Delta is expected to be only temporary .

“The Delta outbreak is expected to delay, but not derail, the recovery,” he said after Tuesday’s monthly board meeting.

Given the deteriorating outlook, it came as no surprise the RBA kept the key cash interest rate at a record low of 0.1 per cent at Tuesday’s board meeting – a level it expects to hold until 2024.

The central bank will also maintain its bond buying program – which aims to keep market interest rates and borrowing costs low – until at least February 2022, albeit at a lower rate of purchases of $4 billion per week.


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