There were a record number of job vacancies in May, as the economy bounced back and closed borders kept the labour market tight

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  • Australian employers listed 57.4% more job openings in May 2021 than in the pre-pandemic month of February 2020, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed.
  • 22% of all businesses had at least one job vacancy in May this year, compared with 11% in February 2020, and 6.5% in May 2020.
  • The findings suggest a massive appetite for labour, as businesses continue their rebound and closed borders keep workers from entering the country.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australian businesses listed 57.4% more job vacancies in May 2021 than in February 2020, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), demonstrating how businesses have bounced back from deep economic uncertainty — and the lingering labour shortages caused by the ongoing international border shutdown.

In its new job vacancies analysis, released Thursday, the ABS states private and public sector job listings grew to a record 362,500 in May, reflecting a 23.4% jump from February this year.

The figures are more remarkable on a twelve-month basis. When compared to May 2020, when coronavirus lockdowns around the nation forced many employers to shut their doors and shed staff, May 2021 showed a 184.1% increase in job listings.

The bulk of those gains have come from private sector listings. The leading sub-sector for new job vacancies is the arts and recreation field, which has experienced a 170.2% bump in job listings since February 2020.

Accommodation and retail businesses follow behind, with a 159% increase in job listings on February 2020 levels. The booming real estate sector, the retail industry, and construction enterprises round out the top five.

via ABS

All told, 22% of all businesses had at least one job vacancy in May this year, compared with 11% in February 2020, and 6.5% in May 2020.

Much of the data shows sectors hit hardest by stay-at-home orders, border closures, and density limits are bouncing back, thanks to largely eased restrictions and Australia’s desire to spend the money they couldn’t through lockdowns.

But the ABS now hints at what economists have said openly for some time: the fact that nearly 300,000 foreign workers departed Australia restrictions set in, and international border closures have kept the vast majority of those workers from returning.

This covers both credentialed labour and working holidayers who may have otherwise staffed Australia’s bustling workplaces and job sites.

“The historically high level of vacancies reflects the pace of recovery in labour demand from the fall in May 2020, as well as the increasing number of industries indicating labour shortages, particularly for lower paid jobs,” the ABS states.

As some firms look to fill these roles outside of Australia, Australia’s economic heavyweights will be waiting to see if these sky-high vacancy rates translate into wage growth.

With labour in demand, and the unemployment rate falling than many had anticipated this time last year, there is some hope Australia’s sluggish Wage Price Index — which the 2021-2022 federal budget forecast to sit at just 1.5% for the next year — will nudge towards the Reserve Bank of Australia’s 3% target.

If that comes to pass, the central bank may make good on its promise to lift the interest rate from the basement, signalling the ulta-lax monetary conditions which powered Australia out of the crisis are no longer necessary.

All of that is yet to pass, though. For now, Australia is left with a stack of job openings, and the hopes that some good will come of it.