Unemployment drops as COVID lockdowns end, employers snap up staff

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Australia’s unemployment rate has dropped sharply after lockdowns, with employers scrambling to hire staff.

Official ABS data shows the unemployment rate dived from 5.2 in October to 4.6 per cent in November, after lockdowns had ended in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT.

The drop came despite a massive increase in the percentage of people in work or looking for it, with a whopping 366,100 extra people estimated to have been in work last month.

AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said the participation rate of 66.1 per cent marked a big difference between the post-COVID recovery in Australia and the US.

“The near-record participation rate contrasts with that in the US where it is running well below pre-COVID levels,” he noted.

“This suggests that the Great Resignation is less of an issue in Australia, although labour shortages are still an issue here.”

Other labour market indicators were also positive, with underemployment dropping from 9.5 to 7.5 per cent and hours worked up 4.5 per cent.

Dr Oliver said all the indications were that the current jobs recovery would continue, with “businesses having to scramble for workers in some industries and not wanting to let them go”.

“Strong levels for job postings and hiring intentions point to a continuing tightening in the labour market,” he added.

The numbers were almost totally driven by the rapid rebound in employment in New South Wales and Victoria as key sectors such as hospitality, tourism, recreation and personal services were allowed to trade again with minimal restrictions.

“The easing of restrictions in both New South Wales and Victoria had a large influence on the national figures, with employment in the two states increasing by 180,000 people and 141,000 people between October and November,” said the bureau’s head of labour statistics, Bjorn Jarvis.

“Employment in those jurisdictions in November was only 52,000 people and 4,000 people below May, having fallen by 250,000 people and 145,000 people during the lockdowns.”

Closed borders keep lid on labour supply

Carbonix founder and chief technical officer Dario Valenza has grown his workforce from 15 at the start of this year to 35.

 

With lockdowns and closed state and international borders, he has been using a variety of ways to find the new workers.

“It’s a combination of going through our networks as the management team and the existing team, as well as going to recruiters and advertising,” he told ABC News.

The Sydney-based company manufactures unmanned aerial vehicles, or custom drones, for a range of industries, including the resources, construction, intelligence and agriculture sectors.

The demand for its technology has been growing and, as a result, so has its team of designers and engineers.

Recruiting during a pandemic — when the labour pool is limited by closed borders, both state and international — has not been as straightforward as usual.

“The logistics of getting them here, getting them started, integrating them into the team with the various restrictions on movements, both within Australia and internationally, has meant that we’ve had to be a bit creative and adapt and find ways to still get the work done,” he said.

Carbonix’s latest recruit, Aaron Boot, moved to Sydney last week.

He started working with the company remotely from his home in New Zealand about three months ago until he could relocate with his Australian partner.

“Having that time where I gradually got to meet the team as new projects came up and I got involved with more people, that was quite a quite a smooth transition and it’s meant that coming here I sort of knew the faces and who’s who, and I could pretty seamlessly slip in and in contribute,” Mr Boot told ABC News.

He is a design engineer who takes a client brief and requirements and “turns it into something that physically exists and can handle the rigours of the real world”.

There is no need for New Zealanders to obtain a permit to work in Australia, making it one of the few countries local companies can more easily recruit from.

Mr Boot is the only international hire for Carbonix this year, when it would normally bring in more people from overseas.

“I had a flag up on LinkedIn that said I was open for work and I got a nice message from Dario asking if I’d consider moving to Sydney and joining the team,” he said.

After three days in isolation in Sydney, Mr Boot was able to meet his new colleagues face to face last week for the first time and get down to work.

By business reporters Michael Janda and Rachel Pupazzoni (Original ABC Article)