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Australia witnessed another decrease in job vacancies between May and August, marking a fifth consecutive quarterly decline, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics job vacancy data released today.

The ABS announced that the total job vacancies stood at 390,000 in August, reflecting an 8.9 per cent decrease from the May quarter.

“Demand for workers eased again in August for the fifth straight quarter. This coincided with an increase in the unemployment rate over the three months to August,” ABS Head of Labour Statistics Kate Lamb said.

Ms Lamb said that despite surpassing historical levels, the country still shows signs of a tighter-than-usual labour market post-COVID.

“Job vacancies were still around 72 per cent higher than they were in February 2020, That’s still around 160,000 more jobs that employers are looking for people to fill, as part of a pool of almost 400,000 vacancies,” she said.

“The percentage of businesses reporting at least one vacancy also fell from 25 per cent in May to 22 per cent in August. However, this was still double what it was in February 2020 at 11 per cent.”

In terms of industries, financial and insurance services have experienced the most significant drop, down by 15 per cent this quarter, and they are the only industry to now have vacancies lower than they were in February 2020.

Public versus private sector job vacancies across states

Private sector vacancies, which accounted for the majority, decreased by 9.2 per cent, totalling 346,600, while public sector vacancies fell by 6.3 per cent to 43,800.

In August, 21.7 per cent of businesses reported vacancies, down from a peak of 27.7 per cent in November 2022. However, it still remained higher than the 11 per cent reported in February 2020.

Regionally, New South Wales and Victoria exhibited the highest vacancy rates at 26.5 and 26.3 per cent, respectively, while the Northern Territory reported the lowest at 25.8 per cent.

In terms of industries, healthcare and social assistance, along with professional, scientific, and technical services, showed relative resilience.

A weakened appetite for filling vacant roles

Today’s statistics reinforce that even though the market for rampant hiring is starting to ease, the demand for specialised talent still remains.

Leading staffing and recruitment agency Robert Half Director Nicole Gortan said the pattern of steady decline reiterated Australian businesses’ current weakened appetite for expanding headcount or filling vacant roles.

“The decline in job vacancies is driven by companies doubling down on their budgets and evaluating which roles are critical in their business, and which ones are considered ‘nice to haves’,” she said.

“Amid rising costs, companies are not hiring at the cadence they were 18 months ago as they have either filled positions or are not in a position to advertise for more due to headcount restrictions.”

“The decline in job vacancies is also a result of companies turning their attention inwards, focusing more on improving employee development and optimising performance versus hiring and onboarding new staff.”

Ms Gortan said the current workforce needed investment from its employers to upskill individuals to meet the demands of an advancing technological society.

“…Companies can hire contract talent to gain specific and specialised skills and extra support during busy periods or projects…this flexible staffing approach allows organizations to scale teams quickly and cost-effectively.”

“That said, opportunities are still plentiful for those with highly sought-after skills in finance, technology, human resources and business support.

“Professionals in the cybersecurity, financial business partnering and analytics space remain in demand for their ability to safeguard a business’s IT landscape and help with strategic commercial decisions.”

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