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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Jobs - where and what?

Where are the jobs?

The latest Detailed Labour Force figures showed that Greater Sydney (+83,100) and Greater Melbourne (+75,000) continued to lead total employment growth over the year to February 2016.

For this reason, it's no surprise that population growth has been following suit, hitting up the largest capital cities, as I looked at here.

After years of no growth, jobs are also finally beginning to be created in regional New South Wales (+58,600), such as in the Illawarra, Shoalhaven, Newcastle, and the wider Hunter, for example (where the unemployment rate has fallen lately, which is pleasing to see).

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for regional Victoria, where total employment has fallen over the past year (-17,900).

Greater Brisbane (+31,100) and the remainder of Queensland (+21,100) have added a solid number of jobs, while Greater Perth (+2,200) now seems to be flat-lining.

On the measure of total employment, while we definitely wouldn't want to jinx it, Greater Adelaide (+10,400) may just at long, long last be turning a corner?

That said, the quality of employment in Greater Adelaide remains a worry.

Total full time employment hasn't increased in South Australia since 2007, while Adelaide's unemployment rate hit an alarming 8 per cent in February.

The small areas labour market figures for December 2015 showed that the unemployment rate in Elizabeth is out of control, rising yet further over every quarter of 2015 to hit a seriously depressing 33.6 per cent.

Davoren Park is following the same trajectory and now has an unemployment rate of well over 20 per cent, while the unemployment rate in Elizabeth north rose above 24 per cent.

It goes without saying that something needs to be done about this.

Possibly the weakest performing labour market in New South Wales was Cessnock, where the unemployment rate increased through 2015 to 17.4 per cent, with youth unemployment has remained a concern.

I looked at the capital city unemployment rates in more detail here, which showed that unemployment rates are trending down in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Unfortunately it appears that having threatened a recovery, employment in Greater Hobart is now in decline again, having decreased over the past year from 105,600 to 103,600.

Piecing that little lot all together. Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and regional New South Wales have accounted for the bulk of employment growth of late.

And what are the jobs?

The Detailed Labour Force Quarterly data is also released each, erm, quarter, and thus the February figures also provide insight into which industries are thriving, surviving, or diving.

Total employment increased in seasonally adjusted terms by +240,000 in 2015, or in trend terms by +275,000.

This is a pretty strong result in historical terms, particularly given that so many experts predicted a recession in 2015, and perhaps the below chart gives a hint as to why - mining is not actually that big an employer in headcount terms, with total employment actually increasing by +5,300 in 2015 to 232,000.

Manufacturing recorded a solid bounce in the February quarter, but still managed to shed another 20,500 jobs in 2015, to continue a long, sweeping structural downtrend that has been in place for 25 years.

Healthcare and social assistance suffered a blip in February, but has created by far and away the most new jobs over recent decades, including another +59,600 last year.

However, healthcare was not to be crowned king of employment growth for the calendar year, with that title going to retail trade which added some +60,700 new positions.

Transport (+45,350), administration and support (+40,300), professional services (+37,500), finance (+16,000), and real estate (+13,000) all saw solid employment growth.

And despite resources construction now being in freefall, total construction employment added an impressive +35,600 positions, as residential construction more than picked up the slack.

It had been argued, wrongly, that apartment construction is not labour intensive - but since brownfield sites are far more challenging locations upon which to construction dwellings, the industry is both labour intensive and productive.

The wrap

Some solid jobs growth for the three largest capital cities was seen in 2015, but there are still question marks as to whether further monetary easing or government spending will be required to guide Australia through the resources cliff.

It seems unlikely that construction and mining employment could add another +40,000 jobs in calendar year 2016, for example, which will leave a hole to be filled.

The answer will lie in the strength or otherwise of the services sector.

Markets still see a fair chance of another interest rate cut by the early 2017. It will be interesting to see what news the budget brings.