No fewer than 35,000 full-time and part-time building and construction jobs have disappeared throughout Australia over the past three months, as the construction industry labour market crashes amid weak building conditions.
At 962,400 (not seasonally adjusted), the overall number of people the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates were employed throughout the nation in building and construction over the three months to August was down by 35,000 compared with the three months to May. That left employment in the sector at its lowest level on record since the three months to August, 2007, during the GFC.
Compared to the same quarter in 2011, the number of full-time and part-time jobs available in the industry is down by nearly 70,000 (69,400), or 6.7 per cent.
While most of the jobs lost over the past quarter were part-time, the figures show that 43,500 full-time jobs (five per cent of the full-time workforce) have been lost in the industry over the past year.
The weakest markets are in Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, where the number of available positions are down by 18 per cent, 16.3 per cent and 16.2 per cent, respectively from the same period last year. The market is also weak in South Australia (down 7.3 per cent), Western Australia (down 5.1 per cent), New South Wales (down 3.7 per cent) and Queensland (down three per cent).
The Northern Territory was the one shining light. At 13,100, the number of people employed in the sector (up 8.7 per cent year on year) is at its second-highest level on record for the past two years. The NT market is expected to remain strong amid an anticipated housing recovery and work associated with the Ichthys LNG project.
The latest data follows a downbeat assessment of the current job market in the sector from human resources firm Clarius Group.
In its latest Clarius Skills Index report released earlier this month, the recruitment firm says a combination of weak infrastructure, a subdued housing market and the placing on hold of mining and resource projects has resulted in a static job market for engineers and ‘virtually no opportunities’ for architects.
Clarius says employers, who are in the ‘box seat’ regarding salary and wage negotiations, are becoming increasingly selective about their candidates.
“Clients want quality candidates but they’re willing to wait for the right one,” the Clarius report says. “There’s a trend to wanting candidates with more all-round skills but who have ‘hands on’ experience in a specific sector with established contacts and the right personality and attitude fit.”
Despite the drop in employment, the recruitment firm talks of ‘localised’ skills shortages in the resources sector in Queensland and Western Australia.
Both the ABS figures and the Clarius report follow an earlier report from the Housing Industry Association in July showing that all categories of residential construction tradespeople were in oversupply except for bricklayers, roofers and ceramic tilers.