Negative figures on ABS jobs data released today underscored further weaknesses in the construction industry labour market.
On a national level, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased 0.1 per cent in August to 5.3 per cent, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.
Whilst the ABS data does not give specific figures for the construction industry, recent developments point to a subdued employment outlook in the sector. Around 1,000 jobs will be lost in New South Wales and Victoria as a result of Bluescope Steel’s restructure, which was announced last month. In Tasmania, the Master Builders Association expects figures out this week to show a loss of 1,000 construction jobs in the state – partially a result of uncertainty over the Gunns Pulp Mill. And in Western Australia, the Perdaman Collie Urea Plant Project – which was expected to result in 1500 jobs over three years of construction – is on the rocks as a result of a dispute between project owner Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers and a key supplier.
Behind the subdued employment outlook are worrying signs of weakness throughout the sector. Last week, the Performance of Construction Industry report (PCI) released by Australian Industry Group (AIG) and Housing Industry Association (HIA) showed building conditions at their lowest level in two and a half years. Worse, the PCI indicated that new orders fell last month at a steeper rate than at any other time since the inception of the report in September 2005.
Data relating to building approvals has also been disappointing of late. Building approvals fell 4.4 per cent in July, following a 1.4 per cent drop in the previous month.