The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) conducted a Survey of Recruitment Conditions in the State Capital Cities and Darwin in March 2011. This follows a previous survey conducted in March 2010.1 The survey results allow comparisons of recruitment conditions across cities and occupations and an assessment of whether employers are having greater difficulty filling vacancies than they did one year ago.
The survey results show that, overall, employers were not having significantly greater difficulty recruiting suitable staff in March 2011 than they were 12 months earlier. Despite an overall increase in recruitment activity in the State capital cities between March 2010 and March 2011, the recruitment difficulty experienced by employers remained moderate overall.
Recruitment conditions, however, varied considerably by city. Recruitment difficulty was high in Perth and very high in Darwin, and was mild in Hobart.
Employers across the capital cities also reported considerable difficulty recruiting for a variety of Technicians and Trades Worker occupations (particularly Automotive Electricians and Mechanics) and Professionals (such as Registered Nurses).
The survey results indicate that the recruitment outlook is likely to be steady in the six months following the survey, although the recruitment outlook for Perth and Darwin was again significantly stronger than the other cities.
Table 1: Summary of Recruitment Conditions by City2
*The smaller number of available business contacts in Hobart and Darwin restricted sample size and representativeness. Darwin was not included in the 2010 survey.
Recruitment difficulty was most prevalent in Darwin, and was sufficiently widespread to suggest a general shortage of ‘job-ready’ labour.
Darwin had the highest vacancy unfill rate of any city (12.5% compared with the average across all cities of 7.8%).
Almost three quarters of surveyed employers in Darwin reported difficulty recruiting or retaining staff in the six months prior to the survey.
Recruitment difficulty in Darwin extended to entry level positions such as Sales Workers for which almost one third of recent vacancies remained unfilled.
Indicators of recruitment difficulty in Perth were also at levels above those in other State capital cities and were higher than those recorded in 2010.
Employers in both cities were commonly unable to fill vacancies for a number of lower skilled occupations such as Hospitality Workers, Sales Assistants, and Plant and Machine Operators, in addition to a range of higher skilled occupations.
By contrast, employers in Hobart generally experienced little difficulty filling vacancies and the survey results suggest that labour market conditions are likely to soften further in coming months.
The survey results suggest that overall recruitment difficulty eased significantly in Sydney over the 12 months and were at levels below those found in most other capital cities in 2011.
In Brisbane, staff numbers declined in 20% of workplaces in the six months to March 2011. This suggests that the recent natural disasters have (directly or indirectly) had a negative impact on local businesses in the region.
Staff growth expectations for the next six months, however, are broadly in line with those of other cities suggesting that Brisbane labour market conditions may be beginning to recover.
Softening labour market conditions in Adelaide from the second half of 2010 have resulted in recruitment difficulty easing compared with March 2010 levels. Recruitment expectations for coming months also remain subdued.
While recruitment activity was significantly greater in Melbourne compared with 2010, this increase in demand was met without a substantial impact on employers’ recruitment outcomes in 2011.
Overall, the majority (83%) of employers surveyed had recruited in the six months preceding the survey.
The level of recruitment activity varied significantly across the capital cities.
Employers in Darwin and Perth had the highest number of vacancies per 100 staff employed (31 and 14 respectively), driven by high rates of staff turnover.
Hobart had the fewest vacancies (9 per 100 staff).
The number of vacancies per 100 staff increased slightly for the State capital cities between March 2010 and March 2011.
Chart 1: Vacancies in the past six months per 100 staff employed at the time of survey
All Capital Cities
The proportion of vacancies unfilled for the capital cities surveyed in March 2011 was 7.8%, similar to March 2010.
Darwin had the highest unfill rate (12.5%) followed by Perth (8.6%).
Hobart had the lowest unfill rate in 2011 (5.0%), a substantial fall from March 2010 (11.5%).
Chart 2: Proportion of vacancies in the past six months remaining unfilled at the time of the survey
All Capital Cities
Recruitment and retention difficulty
Another indicator of recruitment conditions is the prevalence of recruitment and retention difficulty. Employers can experience difficulty finding or retaining appropriate staff while ultimately filling all vacancies.
Almost half (45%) of all surveyed employers experienced recruitment or retention difficulty in the six months preceding the survey, an increase on 2010 levels.
Employers surveyed in Darwin had the highest incidence of recruitment difficulty (70%) and retention difficulty (45%).
By contrast, employers in Sydney had the lowest incidence of recruitment (32%) and retention (10%) difficulty.
The prevalence of recruitment and retention difficulty increased markedly in Melbourne and Brisbane between March 2010 and March 2011.
Table 2: Proportion of employers who experienced recruitment and retention difficulty in the past six months
Any recruitment or retention difficulty
All Capital Cities
Impact of recruitment and retention difficulty
Almost a quarter of employers reported that recruitment and retention difficulty had had a negative impact3 on their business.
The level of impact of recruitment and retention difficulty was steady for most capital cities, but has increased in Perth and Brisbane.
Employers in Darwin (47%) and Perth (28%) were most likely to report any negative effects on their business due to recruitment and retention difficulty.
By contrast, only 17 per cent of employers in Hobart reported that recruitment and retention difficulty had a negative impact on their business.
Chart 3: Proportion of employers who reported that recruitment and retention difficulty had negative business impacts
Employers were asked about their single greatest business concern in the six months following the survey. Reduced/uncertain demand (33%) and skill shortages (32%) were the two most common business concerns.
Concern about skill shortages was most prevalent in Darwin (57%) and Perth (44%).
Employers in Brisbane were the most concerned about reduced or uncertain demand (40%) and the least concerned about recruitment difficulty (24%), which is consistent with flood recovery efforts in Queensland.
Chart 4: Employers’ greatest concern, next six months
All Capital Cities
Recruitment difficulty by occupation
In employers’ most recent recruitment rounds, 9.1% of vacancies were unfilled. Higher skilled occupations, such as Professionals and Managers, had the highest unfill rates (19.1% and 14.4% respectively). By contrast, lower skilled occupations, such as Labourers and Sales Workers had the lowest unfill rates (5.1% and 7.3% respectively).
Overall, vacancies were more likely to be filled with applicants who did not have the skills or capabilities that employers were seeking, than left unfilled.
Almost 1 in 4 Sales Worker vacancies and 1 in 5 Machinery Operator and Driver vacancies were filled with applicants who did not have the sought skills or capabilities.
A high proportion of Community and Personal Service Workers and Technician and Trades Worker vacancies were also filled with applicants who lacked the desired skills or capabilities.
Chart 5: Proportion of vacancies unfilled or filled with workers who lacked desired skills/capabilities
Vacancies filled with workers who lacked skills/capabilities
The survey results were used to rate the severity of recruitment difficulty for common occupations in each city (see Table 3). The rating allocated to each occupation drew on a range of information including whether vacancies were filled, and if recently hired workers had the skills and capabilities that employers were seeking.
The ratings show that recruitment difficulty was more widespread and more severe for Managers, Professionals and Technicians and Trades Workers than was the case for lower skilled occupation categories.
Employers commonly had unfilled vacancies for Automotive Electricians and Mechanics in every capital city surveyed.
Nevertheless, the survey results also show that employers were commonly unable to fill vacancies for some lower skilled occupations in some cities, for instance:
employers in Darwin were commonly unable to fill vacancies for Hospitality Workers and Sales Assistants;
employers in Melbourne and Brisbane were commonly unable to fill vacancies for Truck Drivers; and
employers in Brisbane and Perth were commonly unable to fill vacancies for Food Preparation Assistants.
Table 3: Ratings of recruitment difficulty by city
Evidence suggesting that:
employers commonly had unfilled vacancies
employers commonly had difficulty recruiting suitable staff
Labour Market Information Portal: www.deewr.gov.au/lmip
Skill Shortages: www.deewr.gov.au/skillshortages
Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences: www.deewr.gov.au/regionalreports
Job Outlook: www.joboutlook.deewr.gov.au
Australian Jobs: www.deewr.gov.au/australianjobs
1 Darwin was not included in the March 2010 survey therefore no comparative data are available. In the six cities where the survey was repeated, 77 per cent of respondents to the survey also responded to the survey in 2010, thereby allowing reliable comparisons of the extent to which recruitment conditions have changed in each city.
2 Ratings of recruitment conditions for each city are drawn from a range of indicators from the survey and have been interpreted with reference to other data sources. Ratings compare city results from 2011 with those from the 2010 survey.
3 Includes recruitment and retention difficulties preventing business growth, preventing the employer from meeting demand for their products/services or negatively impacting on the quality of their outputs.