Hiring intentions in the transport and utilities sector have fallen sharply for the first quarter of 2012, according to the latest Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.
In the transport and utilities sector, 24 per cent of employers intend to increase their hiring in the first quarter of 2012 (down from 27 per cent in Q4), while 11 per cent plan to decrease (up from 6 per cent in Q4). Once adjusted to remove seasonal variations in the data, the sector’s net employment outlook has fallen 11 percentage points quarter-over-quarter to +9%.
ManpowerGroup Australia and New Zealand’s managing director Lincoln Crawley said employers in transport are reining in hiring in response to uncertainty in the global economy.
“The transport sector is a huge supplier for the mining and construction sector, and retail and wholesale trade sectors. Hiring intentions in these sectors have fallen, and that is flowing through to transport needs,” Mr Crawley said.
“Nonetheless, transport companies are still competing resources companies for particular skills, with high demand expected to continue for truck drivers with both medium combination and heavy combination licences, and forklift drivers,” he said.
“The utilities sector is also looking brighter, with major electrical infrastructure projects and the NBN on the horizon in 2012. These projects will increase pressure on the market for cable jointers, welding roles and skilled electrical linesmen,” Mr Crawley said.
Overall, the Australian employment market is holding firm in the face of global market uncertainty, with employers reporting a net employment outlook (NEO) of +14% for the first quarter of 2012.
In Australia, 23 per cent of employers expect to increase hiring, while the number of employers planning to decrease hiring is at 10 per cent. 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%.
“The Manpower Employment Outlook Survey paints a stark picture of the structural weaknesses in the market right now. A strong Aussie dollar and high cost base is hampering the manufacturing sector, while retailers are struggling with consumers who want to save more than they spend. Australian job seekers are caught in the middle, with opportunities in these sectors shrinking significantly,” Mr Crawley said.
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%.
“While the mining boom continues to boost the jobs forecast, it’s actually the services sector that is firing on all cylinders right now. Consumer preferences are changing, with some commentators suggesting spending on retail items is taking a back seat to personal, entertainment and recreational services.”
Once seasonal variations are removed from the data, Australia’s 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.