Unemployment rate falls to 4.9% but slowdown looms


The unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9% despite predictions it would remain flat at 5%, but economists still expect the pace of jobs growth to moderate over coming months. 


According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 24,000 new positions were filled in March after a surprise loss of 10,000 positions in February.


The figures show 32,100 full-time positions were created in March in addition to 5,700 part-time positions.


NAB senior market economist Spiros Papadopoulos says the labour market cannot continue the current pace of growth, but it will remain solid.


“In 2010 we saw very, very strong growth in employment growth in percentage terms… Obviously, companies are going to find it harder and harder to find suitable employees in their business,” he says.


Not surprisingly, Papadopoulos says the nation’s booming mining sector is driving jobs growth, although other areas are catching up.


“Although other sectors of the economy aren’t doing as strongly – such as the retail sector, the manufacturing sector, wholesaling, etc – we are still seeing pretty good employment levels in those industries,” he says.


According to jobs site SEEK, Australia’s labour market is continuing to grow at a steady rate, with a 23% increase in the number of new jobs advertised in March 2011 compared to March 2010.


SEEK data shows new job advertisements were up 2.6% since February while job applications also increased by 1.6% since February.


According to SEEK managing director Joe Powell, March saw high demand among jobseekers for positions as retail assistants, assistant accountants, housekeeping staff, call centre staff, and pickers and packers in the transport and logistics industry.


“By contrast, the hardest-to-fill positions are typically highly skilled including insurance and superannuation lawyers, nursing managers, researchers, environmental engineers and management roles in the mining industry,” Powell says.


“Western Australia saw particularly high demand for positions driven by the resources boom – engineers, residential property managers, IT consultants and accountants.”


“In Victoria and New South Wales, it was healthcare professionals that topped the list of the hardest positions to fill.”


Powell says the resources boom continues to be the major factor influencing the employment market, which is not surprising given the salaries on offer.


“The mining industry is a key driver of the Australian economy and, with an average job ad salary on SEEK of $129,000, workers in that industry are the highest paid on average in the country,” he says.


“Beyond the resources boom, the rest of the employment market is still healthy and steady; we’re now regularly seeing over 150,000 ads a month on our site, indicating continuing demand from employers.”


“Our research shows that two in three Australians are looking to change their job this year and, with more than 47 million job ads viewed on SEEK in March, jobseekers are clearly becoming more active in their search.”