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Australian Jobs Market Report – August 2020

We report which industries and jobs have impacted the most during COVID-19 and which are showing signs of recovery

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We’re committed to our readers and editorial independence. We don’t compare all products in the market and may receive compensation when we refer you to our partners, but this does not influence our opinions or reviews. Learn more about Finder .

From February to August this year, COVID-19 has severely impacted the employment rate across many industries in Australia. In fact, there were 523,200 fewer jobs in August 2020 than there were in February 2020.

Over the quarter of February-May, almost half a million jobs were lost in just three industries (arts, hospitality and transport), which is 56% of all jobs lost in that period. We covered this and more in our May report here.

However, these industries and more are beginning to show signs of recovery in the quarter of May-August. Not every industry has suffered during COVID-19 with some industries and jobs thriving, and some expected to continue growing in a post-COVID world.

The worst affected industries in the past 6 months

Total employed persons by industryAugust 2020February 2020Difference% Difference
Accommodation and Food Services760,670930,500-169,098-18%
Manufacturing843,910909,646-65,737-7%
Retail Trade1,196,6741,261,068-64,393-5%
Other Services437,610493,228-55,618-11%
Transport, postal and warehousing612,488667,079-54,591-8%

Source: Finder, ABS. Ranked by highest number of jobs lost

an image of empty table and chairs with social distance markings in an outdoor space

Accommodation and Food Services

This industry has seen the most jobs lost out of all industries, with 169,098, losing 18% of its workforce since February 2020. Within this industry, workers in the subcategory of food and beverage services accounted for 91% of those jobs lost, with the remainder working in accommodation.

Why?

  • Forced closure of restaurants, cafes and food courts.
  • Late implementation of open-air dining into the sector. Only announced in August.
  • Significantly less tourism

an image of a food production line making biscuits

Manufacturing

There were 65,737 fewer jobs recorded in August 2020 compared to February 2020, which equates to a 7% loss of its workforce. Within this industry, the subcategory of Food Product Manufacturing was the worst hit sector accounting for 82% of the entire industry’s loss of jobs.

Why?

  • Large and constant swings in demands of consumer behaviour in regard to food manufacturing during COVID.

a mature Caucasian woman sitting in her retail store with her two pet dogs

Retail Trade

The retail industry saw reductions of 64,393 jobs from February to August 2020, which was 5% of its workforce, with every subcategory within it reporting losses bar e-commerce which saw an increase of 3% or 779 new jobs.

Why?

  • According to ABS data, the monthly turnover of all retail trade fell by a record 17.7% in April 2020, due to the effects of the pandemic.
  • E-commerce alternatives saw a dramatic increase in demand.

empty beauty salon during covid-19 restrictions

Other Services

The Other Services industry includes a broad range of personal, religious, civic, professional and other interest group services, as well as repairing and/or maintaining equipment and machinery. There were 55,618 fewer jobs in this industry in August compared to February, a difference of 11%. Within this industry, the subcategory of Repair and Maintenance was the worst hit sector with 29,518 jobs lost.

Why?

  • Many personal services such as hair, beauty, diet and waste management were not deemed essential during the peak of the pandemic resulting in many store closures.

an empty airport lounge with a view of an airplane outside the window on the tarmac

Transport, Postal and Warehousing

There were 54,519 fewer jobs recorded in August 2020 compared to February 2020, which equates to a 8% loss of its workforce since Covid began. Within this industry, the subcategory of transport support services and air and space transport was the worst hit sector accounting for 80% of the entire industry's loss of jobs.

Why?

  • Significantly less business for airlines due to fewer travellers with border closures.
  • The Transport Industry was hit hard due to freight transport restrictions within state borders up until August.
  • Truckers in victorias required to self-isolate after COVID-19 testing as the state doesn’t have asymptomatic casual testing.

Industries that have thrived in the past 6 months

IndustryAugust 2020February 2020Difference% Difference
Public Administration and Safety861,971829,62932,3414%
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing359,902337,52822,3747%
Wholesale Trade402,092385,96616,1264%
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services151,343136,24615,09711%
Education and Training1,111,6551,097,58014,0751%

Source: Finder, ABS. Ranked by highest number of jobs gained

a safety worker checking the temperature of a woman before entering office

Public Administration and Safety

There were 32,341 more workers in the public administration and safety industry in August than in February 2020, a rise of 4%. Within the industry, the subcategory of public administration has grown the most, accounting for 51% of the entire industry’s growth. Subcategories defence and public order/safety and regulatory services account for 49%.

Why?

  • Jobs in public order/safety and regulatory services are increasing due to the public response to the pandemic including mass demonstrations.
  • State border closures and COVID testing sites need security and/or safety workers.
  • COVID Safe policing in public areas and most businesses.

group of farmers walking through a field on way to harvest

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

The total number of Australians employed in agriculture, forestry, and fishing was 359,902 as of August 2020, which is 7% higher than February 2020 at 337,528. However, agriculture was the only subcategory with significant growth as it increased by 27,959 workers (10%).

Why?

  • Increase in jobs in farming due to a rapid increase in demand for produce as panic buying escalated across the country amid the pandemic. A higher increase in demand correlates to higher staff levels.

workers loading a pallet inside a warehouse

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade saw an increase of 16,126 jobs, which is a rise of 4% of its workforce. The largest increase in employment within that industry was in grocery, liquor and tobacco products.

Why?

  • Panic buying caused a large spike in grocery spending, resulting in an increase in demand for wholesale trade workers.

Shot of a woman worker wearing a hard hat on digital tablet working in an electricity power plant

Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services

The electricity, gas, water and waste services industry saw an increase in workers from 136,246 in February 2020 to 151,343 in August 2020 – a difference of 15,097 or 11%. Within this industry, electricity supply and water supply saw the biggest increases, accounting for 79% of the entire industry’s jump in employment.

Why?

Front-view shot of two multi-ethnic students walking together through a university corridor with their professor and talking to him

Education and Training

Education and Training has seen an increase of 14,075 new jobs from 1,097,580 in February 2020 to 1,111,655 in August 2020. Tertiary education saw the largest rise within the industry increasing by 14% over the 6 month period.

Why?

  • Most universities have begun allowing on-campus lectures and tutorials in NSW while also accommodating for online alternatives.
  • Workers wanting to upskill after losing their job or professional development to keep their job secure.

Year-on-Year

The number of Australians employed was over 12.5 million as at August 2020, 3% lower than August last year, which had over 12.8 million Australians employed. The hospitality industry was hit the hardest with employment dropping by 139,427 when compared to August 2019, a difference of 15% of its workforce. Followed by administrative and support services with a difference of 73,569 over the year and a difference of 16% of its workforce.

The industries that have fallen the most in the past year:

IndustryAugust 2020August 2019Difference% Difference
Accommodation and Food Services760,670900,097-139,427-15%
Administrative and Support Services400,249473,818-73,569-16%
Other Services437,610505,041-67,431-13%
Transport, Postal and Warehousing612,488668,207-55,718-8%
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services1,118,5191,161,844-43,325-4%

Source: Finder, ABS. Ranked by highest number of jobs lost

The industries that have increased the most in the past year:

IndustryAugust 2020August 2019Difference% Difference
Public Administration and Safety861,971797,95864,0128%
Financial and Insurance Services482,423441,50240,9229%
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing359,902319,14840,75313%
Health Care and Social Assistance1,772,3731,742,06530,3082%
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services215,358207,6307,7284%

Source: Finder, ABS. Ranked by highest number of jobs gained

The past 20 years

  • The manufacturing industry saw the biggest reduction in jobs over the past two decades, decreasing by 233,207 workers, 22% fewer jobs than in August 2000.
  • Agriculture, forestry and fishing saw the second-highest hit with 72,620 fewer jobs in this industry, a decrease of 17%.
  • On the flipside, health care and social assistance saw the highest growth in the past 20 years, with 933,026 more jobs, an increase of 111%.
  • While professional, scientific and technical services increased by 533,783 jobs (91%) followed by education and training increasing by 460,609 jobs (71%).
  • Mining grew the most by percentage of its workforce which increased by 203% (161,197 jobs)

The industries that have fallen the most in the past 20 years:

IndustryAugust 2020August 2000Difference% Difference
Manufacturing843,9101,077,117-233,207-22%
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing359,902432,522-72,620-17%
Information, Media and Telecommunications194,203219,200-24,997-11%

Source: Finder, ABS. Ranked by highest number of jobs lost

The industries that have increased the most in the past 20 years:

IndustryAugust 2020August 2000Difference% Difference
Health Care and Social Assistance1,772,373839,347933,026111%
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services1,118,519584,737533,78391%
Education and Training1,111,655651,046460,60971%
Construction1,152,411697,076455,33465%
Public Administration and Safety861,971486,630375,34177%

Source: Finder, ABS. Ranked by highest number of jobs gained

Fred’s forecast: industries likely to succeed post COVID

The following industries are likely to continue growing fost COVID 19:

  • Public Administration and Safety: As COVID has changed the face of public safety service, it's expected that they’ll be a lasting effect and continuous investments in this industry.
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services: Innovations in this sector for work-life and travel during a pandemic (e.g video conferencing) will continue to be useful.
  • E-commerce: Consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to the convenience of online shopping due to it being the only alternative to several closed brick and mortar stores. Innovations in this sector are expected to continuously increase demand for its workers.

Fred Schebesta, Co-founder of Finder:

It’s encouraging to see that some industries are showing signs of recovery, and are starting to re-hire those positions that were lost at the start of the pandemic. There’s also been huge opportunities in some areas that are thriving in the pandemic.

For instance, we've seen a boom in employment for accommodation and food services with 108,299 more jobs in August compared to May, as many restaurants and cafes have reopened.

Growth continues to be shown in e-commerce, it’s the only subcategory in the retail industry that has increased over the past 6 months. I only expect e-commerce to continue to grow as people become more accustomed to the massive convenience of shopping online especially during a era such as this.

The impact of COVID-19 on the economy has caused a tidal wave of damage that we won't stop hearing about any time soon. However, the interest rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia is still at a record low of 0.25, hopefully this factor coupled with the signs of job recovery in suffering industries encourages some spending and consumer confidence.

Image source: Getty Images

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