The official unemployment rate is at its lowest level in more than a decade, but the mood at the coal face isn’t nearly so buoyant.
With the headline figure, currently stuck at 4.5%, written off by many as ‘misleading’, new analysis has shone a light on just how workers and jobseekers alike are feeling.
A national survey of 3,500 diverse Australians has found that a feeling of desperation has crept into the job market as lockdowns have swept Australia’s eastern seaboard.
Conducted by Indeed in August, one in nine Australians said they were “actively and urgently searching for a new position”, up from one in 11 the month prior.
Interestingly, the increase was driven almost entirely by full-time workers. Most likely some of this was prompted by business closures, with a 5.2% increase in urgent work searches in New South Wales and a 3.3% increase in Victoria.
“Increased urgency among jobseekers is precisely what you’d expect in a deteriorating economic environment triggered by strict lockdowns,” the job site concluded in the new report. “Loss of hours, unemployment and reduced job security can be powerful incentives for seeking a new job.
“Unfortunately, increased job search intensity has coincided with lockdowns that are hampering many businesses, leaving them poorly placed to take advantage of the rise in eager jobseekers.”
The same sense of urgency is not being felt in the rest of the country, with the number of Australians eager to find new work actually declining during August.
Those most feeling the pressure are the 35 to 44 demographic, among those with the most financial responsibilities. It comes as the number of homeowners in financial hardship tripled during the same month, loan deferrals rose sharply and household debt levels grow.
By contrast, younger Australians are more likely to be actively but not urgently looking to switch jobs, while those aged above 55 are the most likely to be passively browsing job ads.
The most cited reason for changing jobs was money. One in three Australian employees is after more money, while nearly half of all jobseekers are worried about their shrinking financial cushion.
Contrastingly, as Australians collectively save $230 billion between them, one in five jobseekers wasn’t in a rush to find work. A further 15% directly cited increased government support as providing them a sufficient safety net to take their time finding their next position.
Yet overwhelmingly, the single largest reason was a public health one. One in four jobseekers was deterred from starting a new position based on COVID-19 anxiety as outbreaks spread in Sydney and Melbourne.
While job ads remain elevated, the lockdowns have seen the number of job vacancies decline as business growth in some sectors is put on pause.
With those business closures set to end later this year, and with government support to again taper off, the labour dynamic could be about to flip once more.
Declining COVID-19 fears on the back of high vaccination rates and falling savings rates may drive jobseeker urgency higher still.