Get the Finder app 🥳

Track your credit score

Free

Australian Jobs Market Report – May 2020

We report which industries and jobs have impacted the most during COVID-19

Posted

Fact checked

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 May this year, COVID-19 has severely impacted the employment rate across many industries in Australia. A staggering 822,000 jobs have been lost across the country since February, with some industries impacted more than others.

In fact, almost half a million jobs in just three industries (arts, hospitality and transport) have been lost during this period, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Australia data analysed by Finder. That’s 56% of all jobs lost in that period.

However, not every industry has suffered during COVID with some industries and jobs thriving, and some expected to continue growing in a post-COVID world.

The worst affected industries

Total employed persons by industryFebruary 2020May 2020Difference% Difference
Accommodation and Food Services930,500654,300-276,200-30%
Transport, postal and warehousing666,400571,800-94,600-14%
Arts and Recreation services251,900160,100-91,800-36%
Retail Trade1,261,4001,182,800-78,600-6%
Health Care and Social Assistance1,798,3001,731,200-67,100-4%

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

an image of an empty restaurant

Accommodation and Food Services

This industry has seen the most jobs lost out of all industries, with 276,200, losing 30% of its workforce. Within this industry, workers in the subcategory of food and beverage services accounted for 92% of those jobs lost, with the remainder working in accommodation.

Why?

  • Restaurants, cafes and food courts have been forced to close, some remain closed
  • Lack of government support for open air dining, support was only announced in August
  • Significant reduction in tourism means less business for accommodation services

an image of an empty train in Sydney

Transport, Postal and Warehousing

There were 94,600 fewer jobs recorded in May 2020 compared to February 2020, which equates to a 14% loss of its workforce. Within this industry, the subcategory of transport support services and air and space transport was the worst hit sector accounting for

39% of the entire industry's loss of jobs.

Why?

  • Fewer travellers mean less business for the air and space transport subcategory
  • Freight transport was restricted within state borders until August
  • Victorian truckers forced to self-isolate after required COVID-19 testing as the state doesn’t allow asymptomatic casual testing

an image of an empty stadium

Arts and Recreation Services

There were 91,800 fewer jobs recorded in May, which equates to a 36% loss of its workforce since February. This is the biggest proportion of any industry in Australia.

Why?

  • All community sports activities and competitions were not running for most of February-May. With the COVID-19 safety plan and resumption of sports only announced on July 17.
  • Events, festivals, sporting events and mass gatherings were all ruled out due to high risk of COVID transmission

an image of a mature worker working on the laptop in a clothing store

Retail Trade

The retail industry saw a loss of 78,600 jobs from February to May 2020, which was 6% of its workforce, with every subcategory within it reporting losses except e-commerce.

Why?

  • Monthly turnover of all retail trade in Australia fell by a record 17.7% in April 2020 according to ABS data, due to social distancing restrictions and isolation
  • Closure of many physical stores meant an increase in demand for e-commerce alternatives.

an image of an elderly male in a wheelchair looking out the window

Health Care and Social Assistance

Health care and social assistance saw a loss of 67,100 jobs, dropping by 4% of its workforce.

Why?

  • Closure or restriction of many social assistance services such as adult day care centre operations, aged care assistance services, alcoholics anonymous operations, disabilities assistance services, marriage guidance services, welfare counselling services, youth welfare services

Industries that have thrived

Total employed persons by industryFebruary 2020May 2020Difference% Difference
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste services136,100168,50032,40024%
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing337,100361,30024,2007%
Public Administration and Safety828,500846,30017,8002%
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate services213,700219,9006,2003%
Wholesale Trade385,700389,3003,6001%

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

a male and female worker looking at their iPad at an electric power plant

Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services

This industry has seen the highest increase in workers from 136,100 in February 2020 to 168,500 in May 2020 – a difference of 32,400 or 24%. Within this industry, electricity supply was the subcategory with the largest increase, accounting for 71% of the entire industry's jump in employment.

Why?

  • 46% of the Australian workforce worked from home during the pandemic which has increased utility usage, placing a higher demand for electricity, gas, water and waste services and therefore its workers

a young female in a farm

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing

The total number of Australians employed in agriculture, forestry, and fishing was 361,300 as of May 2020, which is 7% higher than February 2020 (337,100). However, agriculture was the only subcategory with significant growth as it increased by 29,300 workers (10%).

Why?

  • Agriculture saw an increase in jobs due to many food companies experiencing a rapid increase in demand for produce as panic buying escalated across the country amid the pandemic. This increase in demand resulted in higher staff levels.

a public health worker checking temperatures of employees before entering the office

Public Administration and Safety

The Coronavirus has not affected this industry as much as some may have expected. There were 17,800 more workers recorded in May than in February this year, an increase of 2%. Within the industry, the subcategories of defence and public order/safety and regulatory services increased the most, accounting for 89% of the entire industry’s growth.

Why?

  • Jobs in public order/safety and regulatory services are increasing due to the public response to the pandemic including mass demonstrations
  • Border closures and COVID testing sites need security or safety workers
  • Public spaces and businesses requiring COVID safe policing of procedures such as social distancing

Picture not described

Rental, Hiring and Real Estate services

The rental, hiring and real estate services saw an increase of 6,200 jobs, jumping by 3% of its workforce. Jobs in the subcategory of property operators and real estate services increased by 7,500 (4%) whereas rental and hiring services saw a loss of 2,100 jobs (-6%).

Why?

  • Interest rate cuts by the Reverse Bank of Australia increasing demand in the property market
  • Hiring and rental has decreased due to the significant reduction in travellers

a mature man talking to people in a warehouse

Wholesale Trade

Wholesale trade saw an increase of 3,600 jobs, which is a slight rise of 1% of its workforce. The biggest rise in employment within that industry was in grocery, liquor and tobacco products.

Why?

  • Panic buying during this quarter resulted in a significant spike in grocery spending and thus demand for wholesale trade workers

Year-on-Year

The total number of Australians employed was over 12.2 million as at May 2020, 5.4% lower than May 2019, which saw over 12.9 million Australians employed. The hospitality, arts and transport industries show a similar trend to the QoQ figures as they account for 64% of all job losses from May 2019 to May 2020.

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

Total employed persons by industry – top 5 biggest drop in employment May 2020May 2019Difference% Difference
Accommodation and Food Services654,300925,300-271,000-29%
Retail Trade1,182,8001,290,800-108,000-8%
Arts and Recreation Services160,100257,000-96,900-38%
Other Services442,600523,200-80,600-15%
Transport, Postal and Warehousing571,800651,000-79,200-12%
Administrative and Support Services392,600465,600-73,000-16%

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

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

Total employed persons by industry – top 5 biggest increase in employmentMay-2020May-2000Difference% Difference
Mining227,30076,500150,800197%
Health Care and Social Assistance1,731,200841,200890,000106%
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services168,50082,40086,100104%
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services1,108,900579,400529,50091%
Public Administration and Safety846,300475,700370,60078%

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

The past 20 years

  • Only three industries saw declines in their workforce over the past 20 years.
  • Manufacturing experienced the biggest reduction in jobs since May 2000, with a 21% decline in employment – that’s 236,600 fewer jobs in May 2020.
  • It was followed by agriculture, forestry and fishing with a 16% reduction, losing 66,700 jobs, and information, media and telecommunications with a 15% reduction, which equates to 33,700 less jobs in the industry.
  • Health care and social assistance jumped the most by number of jobs, doubling its workforce by 106% (890,000 more jobs).
  • While mining grew the most by percentage of its workforce, by 197% (150,800 more jobs)
  • Professional, scientific and technical services saw the second largest increase in workers, by 529,500 (91%), followed by construction, which increased by 487,600 (70%).

The industries that have fallen in the past 20 years:

Total employed persons by industry – biggest drop in employment May 2020May 2000Difference% Difference
Manufacturing864,7001,101,300-236,600-21%
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing361,300428,000-66,700-16%
Information, Media and Telecommunications187,900221,600-33,700-15%

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

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

Total employed persons by industry – top 5 biggest increase in employmentMay-2020May-2000Difference% Difference
Health Care and Social Assistance1,731,20841,200890,000106%
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services1,108,900579,400529,50091%
Construction1,179,600692,000487,60070%
Education and Training1,035,800634,600401,20063%
Public Administration and Safety846,300475,700370,60078%

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

Fred’s forecast: industries likely to succeed post COVID

The industries likely to continue to grow following COVID-19 are:

  • Public administration and safety: a ‘new normal’ of public order and safety services influenced by the pandemic will have a lasting effect on the industry.
  • Professional, scientific and Technical services: work-life and travel has permanently changed due to the pandemic, making demand for technology transformation such as video conferencing systems, increase significantly.
  • E-commerce: consumers forced to shop online will be used to the convenience and competition brought on by the pandemic.

Fred Schebesta, Co-founder of Finder:

The pandemic has been tough for many Australians, as we’ve seen over 800,000 jobs lost from February to May this year. Fortunately, not every industry is suffering and there are tremendous opportunities in some areas that are thriving in the pandemic.

For instance, we’ve seen a boom in employment for electricity, gas, water and waste services with 32,400 new jobs. The growth is primarily due to the consumption of these services increasing dramatically during COVID as people stay indoors. However, this growth is expected to ease post-COVID when lockdown restrictions ease.

Another interesting industry is retail. Despite seeing 78,000 jobs lost in that quarter for the whole retail industry, e-commerce is booming. It jumped by 4,900 jobs as online shopping has become a necessary alternative to physical retail shopping. I think e-commerce will continue to grow as people get used to shopping online.

We’re also seeing a higher number of new businesses being registered. Australians are looking for new ways to earn a living and it’s great to see people taking the leap and starting a business or trying something new.

For businesses, it’s a great opportunity to hire new people. There are lots of talented people out there who are very motivated and hungry to level up, find new opportunities that they can excel at and they’re prepared to do something new, which is exciting for businesses.

Image source: Getty Images

More guides on finder

Go to site