Australia: Youth Unemployment and Modern Recruiting Tactics May Cause a Shift in the Average Age of Workers

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The youth unemployment rate in Australia is over 14%, according to reports in January 2016. While the unemployment rate in this market rose to 6% overall in January, up from 5.8% year-over-year according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the increase in youth unemployment has been more significant. This is having an effect on how recruiters are trying to tap into the younger demographics’ labor pool. According to recent reports, 39% of staffing firms have shifted their social media efforts away from advertising their services to using these social networks to recruit talent instead. Those recruiting Australian talent have some other challenges to contend with in addition to capturing the attention of the youth in the labor pool.

Australian employers’ had modest hiring intentions heading into the New Year, according to the most recent Manpower Employment Outlook Survey; with many looking to hedge risk with contract and temporary roles. The survey of more than 1,500 local employers found that while few (7%) intend to decrease their workforce in the coming quarter, the majority (76%) won’t be making any changes while 15% are looking to increase their headcount. The resulting national Net Employment Outlook (NEO) of +8% is up one percentage point from both last quarter and the same time last year.

Lincoln Crawley, Managing Director, ManpowerGroup Australia and New Zealand said despite the recent positivity suggested by the falling unemployment rate Australian employers are remaining level-headed. “The local job market has responded well to the change in leadership, but it would seem the October unemployment figures are more optimistic than realistic. Recent economic commentary has been disproportionately optimistic following the release. We know the drop in the unemployment rate was largely unexpected which leads to questions around the integrity of the data and rationale used for Australia’s economic indicators. If we, as a nation, are to place such weight in these figures, we should ensure the data collection and reporting is robust and accurate.

“The national hiring sentiment has remained positive throughout 2015, and this confidence looks set to continue into the new year, but nonetheless, the first-quarter forecast remains modest, as it has for three consecutive years. Employers remain positive for the short-term, we are seeing many look to contract roles to ensure they are agile enough to respond to changes in the market, demonstrating a consistent level of cautiousness,” Mr. Crawley said. The survey reveals bright spots across the country with a considerable uptick of employer hiring sentiment in the Northern Territory of twelve percentage points quarter-on-quarter to a NEO of +11%. Similarly, employers in Victoria and New South Wales reported NEOs of +11%, up two percentage points and stable quarter-on-quarter, respectively.

“Much of the anticipated hiring activity in the Northern Territory is project based, as is the case with New South Wales and Victoria. Recent investment in infrastructure projects has created hiring activity as projects kick off,” Mr. Crawley said. Queensland and Western Australia continue to adjust to the resources downturn with employers in both regions reporting an increase in hiring intentions, up one and three percentage points quarter-on-quarter, respectively. “While we know Queensland is thriving due to a diversified economy, Western Australia is still seeing candidates exit the market, and salaries return to normality. This means employers are looking to fill roles as skilled employees move on while readjustment following mining inflation is giving them more room to move.”

Some of the most challenging roles to fill in the Australian market include Actuarial positions, sales and sales management positions more precisely. Also, on the list of postings taking typically over 30 days to fill are technical IT roles such as Software QA engineers and testers, computer software and software applications engineers, networks and systems administrators and computer systems analysts. Accounting, human resources and travel agents also had just under 10% of job openings remaining open after 90 days however the other positions mentioned had between 10-20% of jobs open after 90 days according to numbers from 2015. Actuaries lead with 18.6% of posting open after 90 days.

For the most part, Australia is an “employers” market meaning that the majority of positions are filled within a 30 day period. Only companies in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory report an overall decrease in hiring intentions, down five and two percentage points, respectively, to record NEOs of +4% in Tasmania and +9% in the ACT. South Australia remains stable quarter-on-quarter with employers recording an Outlook of +3%. Australia is quickly becoming a popular market for companies to place their APAC region hub or headquarters due to the overall higher level of education and English proficiency in this country.

For job seekers, the strongest opportunities are expected in finance, insurance and real estate, services and public Administration. Despite the real estate downturn, finance and insurance continue to anticipate a favorable hiring environment with employers in the sector reporting an NEO of +18%, down just two percentage points quarter-on-quarter. Hiring intentions for companies in the Services sector remain unchanged quarter-on-quarter at +13% while Public Administration has seen a boost following the change in leadership. Larger firms show signs of increased positivity heading into 2016, with nearly a quarter (24%) looking to increase their headcount, and just one in ten reporting they intend to decrease their workforce. Smaller businesses, while all recording positive hiring intentions are more subdued than larger firms. Micro employers recorded the weakest NEO of +4% while small and medium organizations reported NEOs of +7% and +9%, respectively.

Overall, the Australian market is a favorable option for employers seeking to expand into the APAC region with a world leading 72% of openings filled within one month of the job posting. By comparison, only 51% of jobs were filled in the United Kingdom in less than 30 days while the United States filled only 44% of positions opened in 2015 within 30 days. New job postings have remained flat in January with steady or minimal growth overall. Despite the job posting downturn of 22% in mining, resources and energy sector year-over-year the industry is showing signs of optimism in New South Wales and Victoria. New job ads in these areas are up 15% and 12% respectively. Job postings in the housing and new home construction sectors are up, as are unemployment and especially youth unemployment. With recruiters diversifying their candidate engagement strategies we may see more candidates entering into positions typically filled by older more experienced workers in the future.