Right now there are nearly 5 unemployed Australians for every job vacancy — and that's the good news

A sight for sore eyes.
  • The latest ABS figures show unemployed Australians outnumber available jobs nearly five to one.
  • It shows the job market is improving, with the ratio down from over seven in the early part of the pandemic.
  • However, with labour force statistics a little skewed, the reality is likely worse still, undermining the obligation of JobSeeker recipients to apply for work that largely doesn’t exist.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

If you’ve gone up for a job recently and been knocked back, there’s yet another reason to not despair. You’ve got company.

The latest vacancy figures show that while the labour market improved greatly in the three months to August, with almost 60% more jobs available, out-of-work Australians still outnumber advertised positions.

“The number of unemployed people per job vacancy eased to 4.5 people in the August quarter, much improved on the 7.1 people three months earlier, but still almost 50% higher than pre-crisis levels,” Indeed Asia-Pacific economist Callam Pickering said.

The quarterly ‘rebound’, coming hot off the back of the single largest fall on record, was perhaps to be expected. But it’s only part of a more complicated, and less encouraging, picture.

Like so many data points in the COVID-era it’s difficult to quantify properly. For one, the real number of unemployed Australians is known to be much higher than official figures, as some people have simply stopped looking for work.

Add in underemployed Australians — workers looking for more hours — and that ratio “jumps to almost 12 people per job vacancy”, Pickering said.

While the bounce is good news, the bottom line is that it’s a jungle out there for job seekers.

“It remains an incredibly tough labour market for job seekers across the country. The maths quite simply doesn’t add up, with a considerable shortage of job opportunities available,” Pickering said.

“Competition for roles is fierce, with recruiters in the box seat when it comes to terms and conditions.”

Given this reality, the decision by the federal government to reintroduce mutual obligations — the requirement that JobSeeker recipients apply for eight positions per month — may be putting the cart before the horse.

“For some it will be a heartbreaking process of rejection after rejection. For many it will be a waste of time,” Pickering said.

It again dispels the federal government’s rationale for cutting the JobSeeker payment. While it has argued it is doing so to encourage people to find work, the truth is there simply isn’t enough to absorb all the slack in the labour force.

It’s a situation with which all too many are familiar. In announcing its pre-Christmas hiring spree on Thursday, Australia Post acknowledged it had received 29,000 applications for just 2,900 casual positions.

Better still than the 50,000 applications the postal service received earlier this year when it needed just 1,000 casuals.

Maybe things are improving after all.

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