Australian job vacancies ease in February but remain high historically

Image credit: National Bureau of Statistics of China 

Australia’s job vacancies dropped in the three months leading up to February, the third consecutive quarter of decline, but figures remain significantly higher than levels prior to the pandemic, indicating a competitive labour market, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.

The government agency reported on Thursday that vacancies declined 1.5 per cent from November 2022 to 438,500 in the February quarter.

Despite the third straight quarterly decrease, the number of job openings in February 2023 remained high, according to the report. 

Employment opportunities were 92.4 per cent higher in February 2020, prior to the onset of the pandemic.

ABS also revealed that the persistently high number of vacancies reflected the continuous labour shortages in various industries.

For one, the number of companies reporting at least one open position shows both the extent of the sharp decline in labour demand in May 2020 and the change since then. 

Just before COVID-19’s primary effects began to take hold in February 2020, 11.0 per cent of enterprises reported having at least one open position. 

In May 2020, only 6.5 per cent of businesses reported having at least one open position, the report found.

This climbed to 27.7 per cent by November 2022, and in February 2023, the proportion of enterprises reporting at least one vacancy also declined to 24.3 per cent, in accordance with the decline in the number of openings.  

The ABS said it has been using a ‘forward factors’ method for seasonal adjustment since the May 2020 Job Vacancies publication, which is better suited to managing time series during the pandemic. 

The ABS expects to reestablish Job Vacancies trend estimates and return to ‘concurrent’ seasonal adjustment with the May 2023 release.