Jobs boost puts record number in workforce

Our latest forecast identifies who's hiring in a revived labour market, writes Michael Emerson.

Our latest forecast identifies who's hiring in a revived labour market, writes Michael Emerson.

The Fairfax Employment Forecast for May 2013 shows 128,000 jobs were added to the economy in the year to February 2013. A record 11.6 million people were working, the forecast found.

The largest jobs growth was in mining, and in health and community services, the forecast shows.

Interestingly, the fastest-growing group of job seekers were those aged 65 and older.

Western Australia is still the standout state for jobs growth, while South Australia languishes in the employment doldrums.

Employment growth in mining was a result of ongoing demand for commodities, mainly from China. But the biggest gains were in the health and community services sector, which, in the past five years, added twice as many jobs as the mining sector, thanks to strong demand for health-related services from the growing population.

There were job losses in the public sector as all three levels of government tightened their belts. The manufacturing sector also lost jobs due to competitive pressures from overseas imports, as well as softening domestic demand.

Employment prospects brightened for professionals and managers, with the number of jobs growing by 2 per cent and forecast to grow by 2.2 per cent by December.

The Fairfax Employment Forecast is compiled by business consultant Economic and Market Development Advisors (EMDA) and has provided an accurate indication of the current and future Australian employment market since 2003.

It also reveals jobs growth has not been even across all ages.

Workers seeking "twilight careers", those aged 65 and older, are at record levels and growing faster than any other age group.

This post-retirement-age group continues to want to work to fund lifestyles, and many employers value their experience. Conversely, the market has been flat for Generation Y, with job seekers aged 15-19 finding limited work opportunities.

The Fairfax Employment Forecast identified significant gains in the employment of indigenous Australians.

In 2011, about 173,800 people who identified themselves as indigenous were working, which was 84 per cent of the total indigenous labour force.

The level of employment has grown steadily since 2005. In 2011, total indigenous employment grew 4.8 per cent, which was almost double the national jobs growth rate (2.5 per cent). The growth is attributed to factors including improved access to education, training and government programs, and greater indigenous employment opportunities in private enterprise.

The forecast points to better times ahead for those seeking employment. The total number of hours worked has risen for the fourth consecutive month; job creation is rising; and business and consumer confidence is returning.

Looking ahead, about 215,000 positions are forecast to be added to local job markets by February 2014. This is a marked improvement on the 12 months to August 2012 - a low point - when just 58,000 new positions were added.

However, even this current rate of growth would best be described as moderate compared with 2011, when more than 300,000 jobs were added to the economy.

Education jobs growth rising

The education sector employs 3.5 times more people than mining in Australia, making it one of the biggest employment sectors — and it's been growing at a rate of 4.6 per cent annually.

Within the education sector, there are large variations in employment growth rates. While demand for preschool teachers is growing, with shortages apparent, the number of jobs in the tertiary sector grew 3.4 per cent year-on-year to February 2013. It remains to be seen how proposed government cuts to the tertiary sector will affect this rate in future.

Meanwhile, the number of foreign students studying in Australia has been weak but is expected to return to growth as the global economic situation improves. If this market does grow by 30 per cent — as a recent government report indicated it may by the end of the decade — it would generate $19 billion in extra revenue for the Australian economy.

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