In March 2021 there were 66,200 job vacancies across regional Australia. This is the largest number of vacancies in regional Australia since records began in May 2010. The latest level of demand far surpasses the previous record of 59,077 advertised jobs back in October 2011. The latest level of regional job vacancies accounts for nearly one third of all vacancies across the country.
Regional Labour Market is Widespread
The current strength in the regional Australian labour market is widespread across the states and territories and across different occupations. This is very different to the last boom period 2011-2012, when the large number of job ads reflected the country’s then-two-speed economy – vacancies were narrowly based across the resources sectors and states (mainly Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory). Total job vacancies in regional New South Wales and Victoria were at best holding steady during that time.
In March 2021 regional NSW, regional Victoria, regional South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory all advertised a record number of jobs. The regional areas of the remaining states – Queensland and Western Australia – each posted job vacancies not far below previous records. As for the Northern Territory, a recovery from a protracted economic downturn is now in train evidenced by job ads trending higher over the last eight months.
Demand is Higher for Medium-Skilled Occupations
While demand has increased across all occupational categories over the past year (by 56 per cent), it is demand for higher to medium-skilled occupations – from managers and professions through to trades, care and clerical workers that are the key drivers of this growth.
In March 2021, there were three times more skilled jobs advertised in regional Australia than unskilled jobs. The largest share of advertised jobs – 42 per cent (or 27,923 jobs) – was made of up of demand for skilled workers in trades, care and clerical worker positions. About a third of total regional jobs advertised were for high skill managers and professionals (or 22,119 positions). Jobs for lower skilled labourers, machinery operators and sales staff made up the smallest share – 24 per cent (16,176 jobs) – of total advertised jobs in March 2021.
Broad Based Economic Resurgence
The underlying economic drivers of these strong labour markets are diverse, reflecting a broad-based economic resurgence across regional Australia. This resurgence was emerging prior to COVID – and while the restrictions and shutdowns temporarily derailed it, regional Australia was far less affected than capital cities. Moreover the subsequent recovery has seen a jump in employment demand for producing and servicing sectors alike.
The ending of the drought in many parts of regional Australia has brought renewed activity and confidence to farming regions, business confidence is returning in all but the places most reliant on international tourists, and regional hospitality services are starting to pick up as consumers return to spending and domestic residents show that they are keen to explore their own country.
Health Care and Social Assistance in Demand
The stand-out sector driving labour demand in regional areas is Health Care and Social Assistance. It is the largest contributor to employment growth in five out of the eight states and territories. Public Administration and Safety is the next key source of demand for labour in regional Australia followed by Professional, Scientific and Technical Services.
Looking across the particular regions, annual and monthly growth in job ads continues to be universal – each and every one of the 32 regions outside the mainland state capitals had more vacancies in March 2021 than in the previous month and also more vacancies than a year earlier.
Top Five Regions
The top five regions with the biggest monthly increases in March 2021 are:
- Southern Highlands & Snowy with 21% more vacancies in March 2021 (1,005) than in Feb 2021 (830)
- Gosford & Central Coast with 21% more (1,618 compared to 1,342)
- Blue Mountains, Bathurst & Central West NSW with 20% more (1,729 compared with 1,439)
- Fleurieu Peninsula & Murray Mallee with 20% more (807 compared with 672)
- Riverina & Murray with 20% more (2,119 compared to 1,768)
The five regions recording the strongest annual growth saw job ads more than or just about double over the period March 2020 to March 2021:
- Dubbo & Western NSW up by 117%
- North West Tasmania up by 107%
- Riverina & Murray up by 93%
- Southern Highlands & Snowy up by 93%
- Sunshine Coast up by 92%
Original article source: Dr Kim Houghton, Chief Economist Regional Australia Institute