There's now far fewer workers to fill jobs in Australia

Morne de Klerk/Getty Images
  • Competition for job openings in Australia is falling, according to new analysis from jobs website Adzuna.
  • On average, there is now 5.05 unemployed workers per advertised opening, down from 6.48 12 months ago.
  • Fewer workers for employers to choose from has seen wage growth pickup recently, although it still remains very low by historic standards.
  • The RBA expects this trend will continue, but not everyone agrees.

Competition for job openings in Australia has fallen to the lowest level in two years.

According to jobs website Adzuna, the ratio of unemployed workers to job openings on its platform fell to 5.05 in March, down substantially from 6.48 a year earlier.

That indicates there are now far fewer candidates out there to fill available positions, fitting with official data that has unemployment sitting at the lowest level since 2011 and job vacancies at record highs.

Adzuna

Across the states and territories, job competition eased everywhere over the year bar Queensland with the largest improvements recorded in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales.

New South Wales now only has 3.7 candidates per job opening, the lowest level across the country.

Along with recent falls in Australia’s unemployment and underutilisation rates, the decline in the applicant to jobs ratio indicates that labour market conditions are tightening, simply meaning there are fewer workers available for employers to choose from.

When that happens it usually means that wage pressures will begin to lift, something that has been seen recently in official data released by the ABS. However, while there has been some encouraging signs, annual wage growth, especially in the private sector, still remains incredibly low compared to periods in the past.

Still-elevated levels of unemployed and underemployed workers — the latter reflecting people who have a job but who would like to work more hours — is one reason why wage growth still remains lower than usual. Other factors such as increased globalisation, improved technology, weak productivity growth and reduced bargaining power for workers have also been cited as possible reasons as to why wage growth is weak.

There are also increased concerns that a slowdown in the Australian economy in the second half of last year — led by household spending and residential construction — may also start to see unemployment lift this year, an outcome that could see wage growth slow or even stall.

While that remains a risk, policymakers at the RBA remain confident that tighter labour market conditions will continue to place gradual upward pressure on wages in the years ahead.

“We are expecting that as the labour market tightens, wages growth will increase further,” RBA Governor Philip Lowe said in a speech earlier this month.

“The recent data on this front have been encouraging.

“Employment growth has been strong, the vacancy rate is very high and firms’ hiring intentions remain positive. The latest reading of the wage price index also confirmed a welcome, but gradual, pick-up in wage growth, especially in the private sector.”

That’s welcome news, especially given weakness in other parts of the Australian economy, although whether that last remains uncertain.

As things currently stand, financial markets are now expecting the RBA to cut Australia’s cash rate at least once this year, with a small risk of a second 25 basis point reduction also being priced in.

An increasing number of economists also expect the RBA to deliver two 25 basis point rate cuts before the year is out, including two of Australia’s big four banks, Westpac and the NAB.

The RBA has previously stated that a sustained lift in Australia’s unemployment rate is one potential trigger that could see it lower interest rates again.

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