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The state of the Australian job market in changing times

Jul 29, 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.

Unemployment for June 2021 has fallen from 5.5 to 5.1 per cent where an estimated 115,200 jobs were added, the vast majority of them being full-time. The underemployment rate also fell from 7.8 to 7.4 per cent, a seven-year low. The declining unemployment rate continues to align with the strong increases in job vacancies.

In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew Charlton, economic advisor to former PM Kevin Rudd, commented on the impressive nature of the employment recovery over the past year. ‘There are now more Australians in jobs than there were before the pandemic. The youth unemployment rate is lower than it has been in 10 years.’

‘And consider this: across the economy, the share of people aged 15 to 64 who are in work was 75.5 per cent in May, which is the highest employment-to-population ratio ever recorded. That means working-age Australians are more likely to have a job today than at any time in our history.’ To be in this position less than 18-months after COVID-19 first began to really affect the job market and while the pandemic’s impacts are still being felt truly puts the Australian job market in an enviable position.

Charlton goes on to say that as the booming job market accelerates, companies are desperate to find new workers to fill the vacancies. ‘There were 220,000 new job ads posted on the employment platform SEEK in April’, making it the highest monthly figure since the launch of the industry-leading website over two decades ago.’

A recent employment report by SEEK, stated that job ad volumes have fallen slightly after record highs earlier in the year.

Here are some of the key statistics from the SEEK report:

  • Applications per ad at lowest level since 2012
  • SEEK Job ads were up by 10.3% month-on-month (y/y)
  • Manufacturing, transport & logistics have had the highest number of roles advertised ever, up 15% on previous month
  • SEEK job ads were up 164.4% year-on-year (y/y)
  • 163% increase in roles advertised across Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics

Below shows a sample of the market pay rates across the Warehousing & Distribution Sector in Australia. One of the greatest challenges facing companies is attracting talent, and the rates below give an indication of the hourly pay rates required to attract quality workers.

Our data has been sourced from working directly with over 500 customers in the sector.

Click here to access our quick guide to Programmed’s 2021 Warehousing Market Pay Rates

‘Following two consecutive months of record-high new job ad volumes, we are still seeing extraordinarily high job ad numbers, with only a slight month-on-month decline of 0.6%. This is the first month-on-month drop since April 2020 and is to be expected after unprecedented growth.’

Kendra Banks, Managing Director – SEEK ANZ

After the job market slowed during 2020, it wasted no time picking back up, and with the sheer amount of job listings recently, it’s no surprise to see that application levels per ad are at the lowest they have been on seek.com.au in nearly a decade.

The decrease in job applications against listings isn’t led by any one industry, state or demographic, with the decline present across the country. According to Banks, ‘the number of applications per job ad in May continued to decline – falling 8.7%. This is evident in all states and territories and across most industries, with 25 of the 28 industries we report on showing a decrease.’

Banks says that SEEK’s website analytics show that users are still monitoring job opportunities via the platform, but there is a hesitance to apply, with the amount of choice of jobs to choose from being one of the main factors.

‘We can see that with more jobs available, there is a knock-on effect to the number of applications per job ad posted with candidates both having more choice and being more selective. In addition, the reduced labour supply is impacting on the ability to fill roles, which includes the decrease in workers from overseas. There is also a hesitancy for candidates to commit to applying for new roles after such a turbulent 12 months or so, with jobseekers valuing job security in light of COVID-19.’

While there may be a resistance to switch companies or careers that didn’t exist just a few years ago, COVID-19 has certainly made many people at least think about making a change. PERSOLKELLY’s 2021 Australia and New Zealand Workforce Insights Report found that almost 74% of respondents agreed that the pandemic had changed the way they viewed their jobs, and nearly half had considered changing careers in the previous 12 months.

Whilst navigating this ever-changing job landscape, the recently released Programmed and PERSOLKELLY 2021-22 Salary Guide can be a handy resource to find out what your skills are worth, or even what the going rate is in other industries you may be interested in.

It contains market rates for a variety of roles in a wide range of industries, including low, average and high-end wages. It also provides a snapshot of each state and territory, industries as well as insights and tips that you can implement moving forward.


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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