Feared restructures can come with a hire purpose

The very word "restructuring" has a bad ring to it. Just ask anyone working in industries going through wrenching changes at the moment, such as manufacturing, finance or indeed, media. In these cases, it's normally a euphemism for cutting jobs.

The very word "restructuring" has a bad ring to it. Just ask anyone working in industries going through wrenching changes at the moment, such as manufacturing, finance or indeed, media. In these cases, it's normally a euphemism for cutting jobs.

However, what we often forget is that restructuring can also work in the other direction. For all the tens of thousands of jobs that have been cut in struggling industries in recent years, just as many have been created elsewhere. But unlike the job losses, we rarely hear about these.

Several hundred positions being cut by one employer can end up on front pages, but the same number being created across various employers tends to go unreported.

The healthcare industry - one of the biggest contributors to jobs growth in the latest quarter - is a classic example of an industry on the positive side of "structural change." Not only did it post solid growth over the quarter, as the graph shows, it is also on the long-term expansion path.

Last year's census showed "healthcare and social assistance" had become the biggest source of employment in Australia, overtaking retail. It employs about one in nine of the people in the workforce, and will only grow as the population ages and more of us require medical assistance.

Clearly, though, we can't all work in healthcare. So what other parts of the economy are growing?

Recent research by economists at the Commonwealth Bank shows there have been several other big sectors expanding over the long term.

In the past decade, they found, the economy had created 2.4 million jobs, with the largest gains after health coming in construction, professional services, education and mining.

The only sectors that shrank were manufacturing and farming, while communications - which includes the media - remained the same size. Of course, you'd expect plenty of jobs to be created over a 10-year period, in line with population growth. What about the more recent past?

It's true the labour market is weak, with unemployment rising slightly so far this year. But the graph shows that despite this weakness, several industries are still creating jobs. And the gains may not always be where you expect.

In the latest quarter, for instance, retail made the biggest job gains despite reports of the industry's demise.

Just to prove this wasn't a statistical error, it was also the top performer over the previous year.

Without doubt, the deep-seated shifts sweeping through many industries are unsettling, and often traumatic. But despite all the pain of "structural change", it doesn't always have to be a bad-news story.

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