Jobs Market

Hiring expectations in the Mining & Construction remain strong for the new year, but have fallen below the highs seen in early 2011, according to ManpowerGroup data.

In the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, 32 per cent of employers in the Mining & Construction sector intend to increase their hiring in the first quarter of 2012, while 12 per cent intend to decrease. When the data is seasonally adjusted, the Net Employment Outlook (NEO) is +19%, compared to +24% and +28% in the first two quarters of 2011.

According to Lincoln Crawley, Managing Director of ManpowerGroup Australia and New Zealand, otherwise strong hiring expectations have been hampered by some uncertainty in the sector.

“While major projects will steam ahead, factors including the Eurozone crisis, the mining tax and increasing levels of industrial action around the country are causing some companies to put the brakes on their hiring plans,” he said.

However, ManpowerGroup is seeing high demand for a range of specialist skills, including technical managers; mining engineers; maintenance superintendents; environmental engineers; study managers in port and rail operations; electrical trades; and electrical engineering.

Mr Crawley said the war for talent continues to cause headaches for mining and construction employers.

“Head hunting is still very active, and many workers are keen to hear what’s on offer from other companies. Employers therefore need to be provide a compelling employment offer that combines financial and lifestyle benefits, with long-term incentives such as share plans, which encourage employees to stay loyal,” he said.

Overall the Australian employment market is holding firm in the face of global market jitters, with employers reporting a (NEO) of +14%.

The job market is showing resilience in comparison to other markets: the United States’ NEO is just +9%, while the United Kingdom is at 0%.

“It’s heartening to see that almost one in four employers are planning to grow their workforce as 2012 kicks off.  While another ten per cent are planning to trim staff numbers, on balance, Australian employers are staying pretty optimistic in the face of a gloomy global outlook,” Mr. Crawley said.

The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey also provides a clear snapshot of the nation’s ‘patchwork economy’. Reports from the Manufacturing and Retail sector continue to drag down the national average, with a seasonally adjusted Net Employment Outlook of +6% and +7%, respectively. At the same time last year, the Manufacturing sector Outlook stood at a healthy +19%, and retail stood at similarly upbeat +14%.

By contrast, employers in the Mining & Construction sector continue to anticipate a favourable hiring pace and report a Net Employment Outlook  of +19% through the first three months of the year. However, employer confidence in the Services sector is the strongest of all, with employers reporting an Outlook of +21%.

“The value of ManpowerGroup’s data is that the strength of each sector’s job market gives a good indication of its broader health. And while the mining boom continues to boost the jobs forecast, it’s actually the services sector, which is firing on all cylinders right now. Consumer preferences are changing, with some commentators suggesting spending on retail items is taking a backseat to personal, entertainment and recreational services,” Mr. Crawley said.

Once seasonal variations are removed from the data, Australia’s Net Employment Outlook (NEO) has declined by eight percentage points compared with the same time last year, and the seasonally adjusted NEO is at its weakest since the beginning of 2010.

“We have seen a downward trend for the employment outlook since the beginning of 2011, although it’s still far more optimistic than the post-GFC period, where it plummeted to zero. Clearly, the optimism we saw at the start of the recovery has stalled, so it seems that these levels may be the new normal,” Mr. Crawley said.

In this context, ManpowerGroup says job seekers need to ensure they are chasing jobs in the most buoyant sectors.

“The multi-speed economy seems like it’s here to stay for some time. Job seekers looking to position themselves strongly in the job market need to focus their attention on the areas that continue to perform strongly in terms of their employment outlook. This includes mining and construction; services; and finance, insurance and real estate.

“If you don’t have the skills these sectors demand, then re-training or up-skilling may be the first step in your plan. Australia is repositioning its economy in the mid-to-long term, so it makes sense to look at the big picture and plan your career around the future economy,” Mr. Crawley said.