Australia’s national jobs market appears to be in a strong position to take up many of the 1 million Australians who have recently come off the federal governments JobKeeper wage subsidy program.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that at the end of March 2021 there was approximately 289,000 vacant jobs across Australia in February 2021. These figures are an increase of 61,000 when compared to the figures from February 2020 which was one month before the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic.  

The Treasury has estimated that around 150,000 workers are likely to lose their jobs as a result of the end of JobKeeper. Many other Australians who are currently in the workforce are expected to have their hours reduced as their employer will no longer have the funding available to give them their usual amount of work hours.

Figures from the ABS also indicated that since the month of May 2020, when vacancies all but disappeared, the number of jobs have more than doubled in almost all of Australia’s states and territories.

In February 2021, Victoria became the last state or territory to have as many vacancies as what it had prior to the start of the covid-19 pandemic. The most vacancies are currently in New South Wales. At the present time New South Wales has just under 95,000 job vacancies, while there are currently 65,600 in Victoria.

Since November 2020, job vacancies had increased by 14 percent. This growth reflects the pace of recovery in labour demand over the second half of 2020 and the beginning of 2021 as well as the labour shortages in some industries.

Many businesses who are currently experiencing labour shortages have said that one of the reasons for the shortages is often due to a difficult they have in filling vacancies which are lower-paid jobs.

There has also been a 14 percent increase in the number of private-sector job vacancies in the most recent quarter which also turns out to be a 29 percent increase when compared to this time one year ago. The private sector currently accounts for nine of every 10 available job vacancies.

Public-sector vacancies have risen by 11 percent in the quarter to be 13 percent up on one year ago.

In terms of industry, the biggest increase by industry has been hospitality, with vacancies up by 88 percent. Construction is also up by 60 percent. Despite this huge increase, the actual number of people employed in these sectors is still well below the pre-virus levels of employment in these two major industries.

There is now 2.9 unemployed people for every vacancy, the lowest proportion in Australia just prior to the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

Vacancies are generally speaking a sign of future employment but Australia is still most likely a few years away from reaching an unemployment rate in the low 4 percent region which is a level necessary to foster high wage growth across the country.

Australia’s national jobless rate dropped half a percentage point to 5.8 percent in February, which are its best result since March last year. Despite this there are still more than 800,000 people unemployed in Australia and another 1.2 million who are currently under-employed.

The end of JobKeeper, jobs growth was expected to be promising for the rest of 2021 and beyond in most industries excluding areas such as tourism, arts and recreation.

There are also signs of skill shortages emerging across the strongly performing sectors of the economy and mismatches between workers’ skills and employer’s job specifications. The major reason for this problem is predominately due to ongoing international border closures which have worsened skill shortages.