Regional Wages Pressure

TBU_27th April 2021

Wages pressure builds

‘We have lots of jobs and can’t fill them’: economist

THERE is pressure for wages to rise as the region struggles to fill the jobs that are available, economist Colin Dwyer says.

But the region does not look to be growing its workforce, with the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures putting the number of people employed around the same level in March as it was in March 2020.

Mr Dwyer said next month’s data would provide an indication of any changes to the labour market caused by the ending of the government’s JobKeeper program on March 31.

It was possible those coming off JobKeeper and seeking new work would be absorbed quickly, he said.

“The intention of local businesses is to continue hiring and a solid pipeline of future projects points to continuing demand for construction workers,” Mr Dwyer said.

“The tight residential vacancy rate presents a challenge for the recruitment process and competition from local and other locations’ construction projects may change the wages outlook. Already there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that wages have started to increase in construction. We have lots of jobs and we can’t fill them.”

The ABS regional jobs statistics for the year to March put Townsville’s average unemployment rate at 6.4 per cent, down from 7.6 per cent at the same time last year.

In the Cairns region the jobless rate has climbed to 6.5 per cent from 5.2 per cent last year. It was slightly lower at 5.2 per cent for the Mackay/Isaac/Whitsunday region.

The number of people employed in Townsville in March of 111,300 was 300 higher than in March 2020, while Cairns lost almost 6000 jobs with its employment down to 127,700.

Mr Dwyer said the jobless rate in Townsville had halved from a high of 11.8 per cent in 2017 to just over 6 per cent in 2021. The jobless rate for men was higher at 7.3 per cent than for women at 5.4 per cent.

Recruitment specialist Clayton Cook, of TP Human Capital, said they were seeing about 400 new jobs being posted on the Seek website for North Queensland every week.

Trades, healthcare, hospitality, public sector and manufacturing positions comprised almost 60 per cent of the jobs, he said.

“The region’s agricultural sector is also a key area in need of workers and several new mining projects have recently announced increased skilled worker needs,” Mr Cook said.

In North Queensland, the trades and services sector has the highest number of jobs on Seek at 271, followed by healthcare and medical at 265, and hospitality and tourism at 186. Other high categories were manufacturing, transport and logistics at 118; community services and development at 101; mining, resources and energy at 82; education and training at 81; administration and office support at 76; retail and consumer products at 72; and construction at 71.