There are currently a record number of job vacancies in Australia – but the 'odds are stacked' against the unemployed

There are a growing number of job vacancies amid heightened unemployment.
  • Australian businesses were hiring for a record 254,400 jobs in November.
  • It marks huge job growth since August’s 206,100 vacancies, indicating growing employment.
  • However, with unemployment hovering around 7%, there remains 3.7 unemployed Australians for each vacancy, at the same time government support is wound back.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australia may still be in the midst of a global a pandemic, but having shrugged off a short-lived recession, businesses are now looking to hire.

The latest ABS figures show there were more than a quarter of a million positions looking to be filled in November, a new record high.

Measured only periodically throughout the year, the stats show job vacancies soared by almost 50,000 in the three months from August, when vacancies sat at 206,100.

“Australian businesses are actively hiring and in record numbers,” Indeed Asia-Pacific economist Callam Pickering said. “There was a record 254,400 job vacancies across Australia in November, as Australian businesses tried to catch up on hiring that would normally have happened, but didn’t, due to the COVID-19 crisis.”

With unemployment currently sitting at 6.8% – well below the 13% forecast in the middle of the crisis – there could be serious job growth on the way.

“Rising job vacancies usually precedes stronger employment growth and that suggests that the Australian labour market will continue to strengthen in early 2021. Momentum though is likely to slow as fiscal support measures, most notably JobKeeper and JobSeeker, are removed,” Pickering said.

While it’s worth celebrating, it’s important to note that the growth comes with some caveats. For one, there are still almost four unemployed Australians for every job vacancy, a sobering stat as government support is withdrawn.

“The odds are stacked against the unemployed. The number of unemployed people per job vacancy is still 20% higher than pre-crisis levels and that makes the decision to completely wind back unemployment support shortsighted,” Pickering said.

“Australia’s unemployed face a very simple but devastating reality. There are not enough jobs. No matter how many jobs they apply for or how diligent they are, most will simply miss out.”

The record numbers meanwhile may not reflect job creation as much as they do postponed economic activity.

“We also shouldn’t be surprised if vacancies dip in the near-term. To some degree, elevated hiring in November reflects some catch-up from hiring that would normally have taken place, but couldn’t, due to nationwide economic lockdowns.”

Where are the job opportunities in Australia?

All that being said, there are some opportunities for job hunters, particularly those outside of the public sector. Going through the wringer in 2020, the private sector is now bouncing back, accounting for nine out of ten vacancies.

Geographically, the growth has been spread around. The stats, which don’t include Victoria’s post-lockdown bounce, indicate that every other state recorded above pre-pandemic levels of hiring.

Nowhere was second-half growth stronger than Tasmania, where vacancies are up 50%. It was followed by New South Wales, up by one third.

There’s not an industry in the country either that isn’t doing better than it was earlier in the year. The biggest gains continue to be made in healthcare and social assistance, while accommodation, food, and retail aren’t far behind as they continue to bounce.

“The improvement in … [these] three industries heavily hit by shutdowns – is certainly welcome,” Pickering said.

“Many industries are not completely out of the woods, and the more persistent impact of the recession will not be apparent until JobKeeper winds up, but certainly industry conditions have improved.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.