Australian job vacancy trends in May 2024

Company News

by Glenn Dyer

Job vacancy data for May support explanations about the continuing strength of the Australian labour market.

Data released Thursday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show there were 352,700 job vacancies in May 2024, down 10,000 from February, a fall of 2.7%.

This followed a fall of 6.2% in February 2024. The ABS said that the peak of vacancies was back in May 2022, and since then their number is down 26%.

Private sector vacancies were 313,500, down 2.7% from February, while public sector vacancies fell 2.5% to 39,100.

There were falls in job vacancies in most states and territories. South Australia saw the largest percentage drop (-17.3%), followed by Western Australia (-12.3%). The only rise was in the Northern Territory (15.2%).

In the year to May, total job vacancies were down 17.7%. That compares with a 15.4% rise in the number of people unemployed, to just under 599,000 (seasonally adjusted) in May.

At the same time, the number of people employed rose 2.5%, or 354,000, in the same period. The jobless rate was 4% in May, up from 3.6% a year earlier.

But despite the clear cooling in the demand for labour and vacancies, the ABS pointed out that the strength of the labour market is still very apparent and now being driven by demand for labour from non-market sector industries such as aged care, health, and social assistance (the NDIS).

ABS head of labour statistics, Bjorn Jarvis, said job vacancies in May were still well above their pre-COVID-19 pandemic level.

"There were still around 54.8 percent, or around 125,000, more vacancies than in February 2020,” he pointed out.

"The decline in job vacancies was seen across many industries. The strongest quarterly percentage falls were in wholesale trade (-30.7 percent) and manufacturing (-29.8 percent)."

Only four industries had growth in job vacancies over the quarter. The strongest percentage rises were in professional, scientific, and technical services (15.9%) and public administration and safety (15.3%).

He also noted that job vacancies remained higher than their pre-pandemic levels in 15 out of 18 industries.

“This continued to be particularly pronounced in customer-facing industries, including accommodation and food services, and arts and recreation services, where vacancies are still more than double pre-pandemic levels,” Mr. Jarvis said.

The latest data on the labour market showed that much of the recent growth in filled jobs was in the three non-market sector industries – health care and social assistance, education and training, and public administration and safety.

“This was also reflected in the latest job vacancies data, with these three industries’ share of total vacancies growing from around 27 percent in May 2023 to 28 percent in May 2024. The share was also considerably higher than the pre-pandemic 22 percent in February 2020.

“Health care and social assistance now accounts for the largest share of total vacancies – around 18 percent or close to one in five vacancies,” Mr. Jarvis said.

Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

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