Employer confidence takes a dip

Employer hiring plans for the coming months have dropped for the first time this year, according to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey – despite the recent unemployment rate drop (from 5.3 per cent in July to 5.1 per cent in August) and increase in full-time employment.

Out of over 2200 Australian employers surveyed, the number planning to increase hiring remained steady at 27 per cent, but those planning to decrease their staff increased from six per cent in the last quarter to seven per cent this quarter. The number of online job ads fell slightly in August, confirming that hiring intentions may slow in the coming months.

The situation is hardly dire, however. SEEK managing director Joe Powell told the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Following a rapid growth rate in the jobs market in July and the stable growth already seen over the past year it is clear that despite growth in new job ads slowing slightly, it’s still a solid jobs market.’

Lincoln Crawley, managing director of Manpower Australia & New Zealand, confirms that Australia’s employment situation remains strong despite the dip in hiring optimism. ‘At the time of the survey, a looming election and talk of a double-dip recession in the US may have affected employer confidence. However, the overall employment picture is still strong, especially compared to a year ago when the Net Employment Outlook was at +8% – it’s now 11 points higher,’ says Crawley.

The biggest drop was seen in the transport and utilities sector, whose Employment Outlook index dropped 19 percentage points, from 34 per cent in the last quarter to 15 per cent. Employers in the manufacturing and mining and construction sectors also experienced less hiring optimism as they looked towards the end of the year.

Significant decreases in employer optimism were seen in both Queensland (from 25 per cent to 17 per cent) and Western Australia (from 37 per cent to 32 per cent). This is likely a result of uncertainty about how the mining tax will impact the industry. Manpower’s Crawley emphasises, however, that hiring intentions are coming off a remarkably high base and the resources industry is still driving much of Australia’s growth.

Skills shortages remain an ongoing concern, with Manpower’s recent Talent Shortage Survey finding that in Australia, shortages in skilled trades are the major area of concern – especially for the resources sector.

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