Australian Labour Market Insights Report

Programmed Q4 Labour Market Insights 2021

Australia’s labour market has been hit by an extraordinary double punch in recent months, leaving many employers frustrated and puzzled at the volatility.

Immediately before the latest COVID Delta outbreak that emerged in Sydney and spread to Victoria and some regional areas, the labour market was bouncing back – business activity was resuming, jobs growth was returning and there were even difficulties meeting skills needs in some industries.

The National Skills Commission’s Internet Vacancy Index in May recorded its 13th consecutive month-on-month increase in job advertisements. Nationally, job advertisements were at their highest level in 12 years, as businesses went on a desperate hunt for talent.

Download the full report here.

Key Takeaways

  • Nationally, job ads at highest level in 12 years
  • NSW – worst affected state, 12% of all hours worked were lost between May-August
  • Huge exodus from labour market
  • People who are normally interested and active in looking for work, gave up
  • For employers looking for staff, it’s a challenging time
  • Initial recovery in jobs and hiring may be slower than 2020, but patterns suggest recovery will occur throughout 2022

“It can be difficult to make sense of what is happening across Australia’s labour market. We have analysed the data available and compiled this report to provide greater clarity on the status of Australian jobs, working hours, mobility and trends. While the impacts of Covid and related lockdowns have again challenged Australian industry in 2021, importantly there is cause for some optimism in 2022”

Nic Fairbank, CEO – Programmed Skilled Workforce, Training Services and & PERSOLKELLY ANZ

Across the states and territories

  • New South Wales – suffered worst from the COVID-19 Delta strain outbreak as jobs collapsed. The volume of job ads slumped 10.7% in August, according to SEEK. The industries worst hit were Administration & Office Support (-15.9%), Community Services & Development (-15.6%) and Trades & Services (-8.1%). The jobless rate stood at 4.9% and the participation rate fell an unusually large 2.5 pts to 62.4%.
  • Victoria – job ads slumped 6.3%, with the biggest declines in Hospitality & Tourism (-33.1%), Trades & Services (-6.5%) and Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics (-6.6%). The 4.1% unemployment rate belies a 9.1% rate of underemployment.
  • Queensland – there was a 5.0% drop in advertised vacancies with SEEK. The unemployment rate stands above the national average at 5.3% and the participation rate declined by 0.7 pts to 65.9% in August.
  • South Australia – the state defied the trend, with job ads increasing by 2.4% in August as it remained insulated from the worst of the COVID outbreak on the eastern seaboard. The unemployment rate stood at 5.0% in August.
  • Western Australia – the state’s tough border restrictions saw job ads increase a marginal 0.3% as recruitment activity was largely unaffected. The unemployment rate stands at 4.6% and the participation rate at a relatively strong 69.0%.
  • Tasmania – recruitment activity increased, with job ads 2.8% higher in August. The jobless rate is above the national average at 5.5% and participation is just 61.7%.
  • ACT – Canberra’s first significant brush with COVID saw job ads plummet by almost 12% as recruitment activity came to a near halt.

Together, Programmed and PERSOLKELLY are the leading providers of staffing, operations and maintenances services across Australia and New Zealand and one of the largest workforce solutions providers in the APAC region.

From market-leading staffing programs to advanced people management, innovation and technology; we support your business to navigate and stay ahead of the rapidly changing world of work. 

Together our experienced, capable team of problem-solvers will help you achieve more.

If you would like to speak to a Programmed representative, please call us on 13 STAFF (13 78233) or visit programmed.com.au to learn more.


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About Programmed


Programmed is a leading provider of operations and maintenance services across Australia and New Zealand. Our business model is built around our ability to recruit, deploy, manage and maintain a large, directly employed workforce of professional, skilled and semi-skilled staff with a wide range of capabilities. We are proud to efficiently serve more than 10,000 customers every day.

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