Australia’s jobs market has been on fire in 2017.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), a mammoth 383,300 Australians found work in the 12 months to November, equating to an average increase of nearly 32,000 each and every month.
In November alone, employment surged by 61,600, the largest increase since October 2015. As a result, a record 12.4 million Australians are in work.
Even with strong labour market conditions encouraging an increasing number of Australians to find or look for work, the hiring frenzy has seen Australia’s unemployment rate drop to 5.4%, the lowest level since early 2013.
After such a stellar run, Callam Pickering, APAC economist for global job site Indeed, has been taking stock.
In his opinion, of all the figures that have come and gone, perhaps the most impressive trend of 2017 has been the resurgence in full-time hiring.
“Full-time employment accounted for 84% of employment growth in 2017. This helps reverse one of the more notable hiring trends since the global financial crisis: the shift toward part-time and casual employment,” he says.
“Much of the labour market debate focuses on whether good jobs are being created. Certainly, work in the ‘gig economy’ does not always mean long-term secure positions. However, in 2017, job creation was concentrated in high-quality full-time roles.
Along with a 78,700 increase in part-time employment over the past 12 months, Australian employment recorded its second-fastest annual increase on record, only surpassed by the 409,200 increase recorded in the year to August 2005.
While the performance of the labour market in 2017 was near flawless, if there was a disappointment, Pickering says that it came from youth unemployment.
“There was one significant downer in Australia’s labour market in 2017 — youth unemployment remains far too high,” he says.
“While improvements have been made, the jobless rate among workers 15-24 years is still above 12%. Furthermore, participation among young Australians remains well below its pre-crisis level.
“A large share of workers now take their first full-time job with less experience than their counterparts had a decade earlier. Even as we celebrate a remarkable year for Australian employment growth, we must acknowledge that younger workers have been left behind.”
This second chart from Pickering shows the unemployment and participation rates for Australians aged between 15 to 24 years.
While some will undoubtedly point out that participation in the labour market among this age group has been influenced by an increase in tertiary education, the question of whether this is by choice, or because job market prospects aren’t as strong as they once were, remains an area for debate.
Certainly the lift in unemployment in this age group, even with lower participation levels, suggests the economy may not be growing fast enough to absorb all new entrants to the labour market.
Regardless, as Pickering points out, many younger Australians are entering the labour market with less real world experience than generations of the past.
And while Pickering didn’t nominate it as his lowlight, wage growth, or lack thereof despite booming employment growth, is undoubtedly another area that has disappointed more than a few Australians this year.