Australia’s employment blind spots: Where the jobs will be in 2017

Did the government predict the scale of recent job losses?

February was a dark month for Australian manufacturing and aviation workers.

Unfortunately, they are not the only sectors tipped to feel the pain of restructuring.

The Department of Employment, in its predictions on the future growth and decline of jobs across Australia released last year, estimated that there would be thousands of job losses in the following sectors between now and 2017:

The government admits that its projections should be taken with an “inherent degree of uncertainty” as they do not account for “unanticipated economic shocks, major policy initiatives or natural disasters”.

The scale and frequency of layoffs did come as a shock in February but probably not a surprise for any close watchers of the airline, automotive and mining services industries.

Here’s how the government’s prediction held up.

The government clearly underestimated the speed with which the large car makers would exit production in Australia. In terms of the aviation sector, Virgin and other airlines have steadily hired more and more employees over the past couple of years, and the extra capacity poured into the sector would have encouraged the Department of Employment to revise numbers up. On balance, however, the predicted versus actual numbers are consistent with employment trends in the above sectors.

But it's not all doom and gloom. The department predicts growth in the following industries.

Overall, the data presents some good news for the economy. If you ignore all of the sector subdivisions, then all but one of Australia’s industries are predicted to grow, with healthcare and retail trade leading the way.

The one exception to this is the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which is forecast to shed a staggering 13,000 jobs between now and 2017.

Earlier, we used ABS data to predict to flag five less-talked-about growth industries. For the most part, the data matched up.  Two sectors didn’t.

Despite ABS’ data hinting at strong growth in online (non-store) retail, the Department of Employment sees the sector shedding jobs over the next couple of years. Their predictions were also modest on future job growth in heavy construction and infrastructure engineering. Booming growth is instead tipped for the general construction industry.

One strong theme emerging from both sets of data is that the food services sector is set for significant growth over the next couple of years. It poses an interesting contrast to Australia’s agriculture sector, where job growth is slowing.

So have February’s dramatic job cuts have impacted on growth in other sectors? We’ll have to wait for Department of Employment’s 2018 forecasts to see if this is the case.

Got a question? Contact the reporter @HarrisonPolites on Twitter.

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