Australian Job Vacancy Demand Eases for Fifth Consecutive Quarter

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In the latest job vacancy report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the demand for new employees eased for an unprecedented fifth consecutive quarter. This period, which encompassed the three months leading up to August, marked a decrease of around 38,000 job vacancies as compared to May. A total of 390,000 job vacancies were recorded during this period, indicating a faltering demand for employees.

Kate Lamb, ABS’s top labour statistician, elaborated that the demand slump of nearly 9% between May and August is seasonally adjusted, down by a staggering 18% since its zenith in May 2022. This downturn aligns with the rise in the unemployment rate witnessed over the same three-month period.

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Despite no longer being at historic levels, both indicators still reflect a labour market that is growing tighter than before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amidst the gloom, there is still a silver lining – job vacancies remain at a rate 72% higher than witnessed back in February 2020, translating to nearly 160,000 additional jobs that employers seek to fill.

There was a slight dip in businesses reporting at least one vacancy, falling from May’s 25% to 22% in August. However, it is worth noting that this is nearly double the figure of 11% recorded in February 2020.

Sectoral insights reveal a 6% drop in public sector vacancies, a loss of approximately 3,000 jobs. On the other hand, the private sector took a hit of around 35,000 jobs, a dip of nearly 9%.

In terms of regional distribution, ACT bore the brunt of the job vacancy fall, going down by 8%, whereas Queensland served as an outlier with growth, marking an increase of 4%.

Job vacancies within the financial and insurance services bore witness to the greatest slump of 15% for August. Meanwhile, retail trade vacancies experienced a fortunate reversal, soaring by an impressive 19%.

Alongside this, the ABS also unveiled its latest Retail Trade statistics on Thursday. In light of a 0.5% rise in July and a 0.8% decrease in June, retail turnover managed to clock a modest gain of 0.2% in August, indicating restrained retail spending by consumers.

Interestingly, clothing, footwear, and personal accessory retailing surged by 1.3%, marking the greatest increase. This was promptly followed by ups in cafes, restaurants, and takeaway food services by 0.7%, other retailing sectors by 0.7%, and department stores gained a 0.4% uplift.

Looking into the future, Oxford Economics Australia economist, Sean Langcake, gestures that the modest swell in sales notwithstanding the brisk population growth and inflation can provide some cause for concern. With inflation and soaring mortgage and rent costs escalating the pressure on the cost of living, consumer confidence, and spending are being increasingly strained. Although consumer expenditure on services is outweighing retail goods, Langcake predicts a soft outcome for household consumption in Q3.