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Jobs for a nation of paper shufflers

Stand by for the government spin. Today’s figures from the ABS show job vacancies are on the rise. It must be the Turnbull factor. Companies seem to have plucked jobs out of thin air.

Before we get too excited, the figures relate to a time before Turnbull and, in any case, they haven’t really moved a great deal. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports 163,500 vacancies for the August quarter, 10 percent up on a year ago.  But look back two years before that and we’re nine percent down.  That’s 15 thousand fewer jobs than in August 2012. And we all hoped we might be on the road to recovery.

The surprising news is which sectors are impacting on these figures. Sure, mining is down. We expected that as the industry moves from its build phase to its automated “pull rocks out of the ground” phase. There are a quarter fewer jobs in mining than there was a year back. With it goes a slide in the construction sector – 20 percent down – despite it being one of Tony Abbott’s big promises: stop the boats, get rid of the mining tax and build stuff.

Manufacturing jobs are also significantly lower, almost a third down on last year. Yet there’s never been a better time for Australian to export stuff. The fact that factories aren’t gearing up with extra staff to take advantage of the rapidly declining Aussie Peso makes you wonder how many factories are left.

So where are we seeing jobs growth? As you’d expect, we are crying out for real estate agents. 4,300 vacancies for smartly dressed spruikers, carrying their little ‘Open for Inspection’ signs, is the highest level of demand for five years, almost 50 percent more than last year.

Finance is on a holding pattern. We’ve not seen any growth in the number of jobs involved in moving money around from one place to the next. But there’s a near 30 percent leap in administrative and support services, largely to do with shuffling other bits of paper around.

Retail is a shining light. There were 14 percent more jobs than a year ago, and with 19,000 vacancies it is one of the biggest opportunities for job seekers. So why can we never get served in department stores?

And what about this structural reform everyone talks about. In fact, Mr Abbott of Forestville mentioned it on Melbourne’s 3AW just today. What are we restructuring to? 

Are we to become nothing more than a nation of administrators with nice houses, spending our spare time buying imports at Westfield?

Not all of us. We’ve got an ageing population and many others dependent on welfare. That’s helped a one third jump in vacancies in health care and social assistance. Thank goodness for those unable to look after themselves.

The promising news comes from two sectors that are benefiting from the low Aussie dollar. There’s been a 45 percent leap in vacancies in accommodation and food services, hinting that we might be welcoming more visitors from overseas soon. Of the paying variety, that is. And there’s been a similar jump in vacancies in education and training, reflecting our popularity amongst foreign students.

But let’s not get too carried away. 4,000 jobs in education is just a fraction of the 23,000 administration jobs that have been up for grabs, or the 17,000 in age and social care. If you’re out of work, start practising your filing skills. Or speak nicely to some old people. It’s where the nation is headed.

Read the ABS jobs stats here

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