Australian companies think they’ll be hiring more workers over the next few months.
According to the latest Australian Employment Outlook report produced by the ManpowerGroup, 15% of employers forecast an increase in staffing levels in the June quarter this year, up from 13% in the previous survey.
Only 4% of firms indicated that they intended to reduce staffing levels — down from 5% in the current quarter — while 78% said they were likely to be unchanged.
After adjusting for seasonality patterns, the group said that its outlook index for the June quarter stood at +9%, unchanged from the prior quarter but well above the +4% level reported in the same quarter a year earlier.
That’s not an insignificant outcome given the weakness in employment growth reported in the official ABS statistics throughout last year.
Fitting with a recent improvement in operating conditions in the separate NAB Australian business survey, Manpower said that firms of all sizes — on balance — expect to lift hiring levels in the coming quarter.
“Large employers report solid hiring intentions with a net employment outlook of +23%, while some job gains are expected in both the medium and small-size categories with outlooks of +8%,” it said.
“Meanwhile, Micro employers report modest hiring plans with an Outlook of +4%.”
The group defines “micro” firms as those with less than 10 employees. Small firms are deemed to have between 10-49 employees, with medium firms containing anywhere from 50 to 249 workers. Any firm with a larger workforce is, unsurprisingly, deemed to be large.
“Large employers report an improvement of six percentage points when compared with the previous quarter. Elsewhere, hiring prospects are relatively stable for small and medium-size employers while micro employers report no change,” the group said.
And, adding to that optimistic assessment, the group said that firms across all states and territories intend to increasing staffing levels in the months ahead.
“The strongest hiring prospects are reported in New South Wales and Australia Capital Territory (ACT) where net employment outlooks stand at +14%,” it said.
“Elsewhere, Tasmania employers anticipate a steady hiring pace with an outlook of +11%, while the Victoria Outlook stands at +10%.
“Queensland employers report a cautiously optimistic Outlook of +9%, while some payroll gains are expected in both South Australia and Northern Territory with outlooks of +7%. The most cautious regional Outlook of +6% is reported in Western Australia.”
That would be a strong outcome, if correct, given much of the hiring in Australia last year was almost solely concentrated in just one state: Victoria.
From the previous quarter, the group said that hiring intentions showed the largest improvement in Queensland and Tasmania, offsetting weaker readings in three states and territories, including Victoria.
By sector, and conveying a familiar theme, Manpower said that all seven industries within the survey expect to increase payroll levels, led by the all-important services sector, the largest employer in the country.
A net balance of 15% of services firms indicated they intend to hire more workers, edging out transport and utilities and mining and construction for top spot with a net balance of 12%.
Perhaps reflective of weakness in retail sales over recent years, wholesalers and retailers registered the smallest expected increase in hiring intentions with a net balance of 5%.
The Manpower report is certainly optimistic on the outlook for labour market conditions in the months ahead. While it won’t be known for some time whether that will be reflected in the ABS’ official data, markets will get an indication on how hiring stacked up in the current quarter when the ABS releases its February 2017 jobs report on Thursday, March 16.