Many people entered 2020 with huge plans, many organisations too. Come March 2020, the realities of the world we currently live in took shape for many Australians. Not only has COVID-19 hurt many people emotionally and physically, the virus has also infiltrated industries worldwide, which in turn has had a huge impact on the employment market globally.
As of June 2020, Australia sat at 7.4% unemployment (this was an increase from May 2020 where we sat at 7.1%) which meant we had hit our highest unemployment rate since November 1998. According to Trading Economics it’s forecasted that by the end of this current quarter, we will reach an unemployment rate of 8.2% and within 12 months, this will back down to 7.9% before settling at approximately 6.30% by 2022. Upon writing this piece, it was announced that Australia has hit one million unemployed. Wage growth in Australia has dipped to its lowest rate in 23 years. Businesses are starting to release the first full quarter results since COVID-19. Unfortunately, it seems things will get worse before they get better.
Although the outlook seems bleak, there have been certain segments which have been recruiting and flourishing in this current economic environment. Below is an outline of our take on the past six months:
Commercial Accounting: Over the past six months we saw the demand for Senior Financial Accountants increase where market feedback has suggested the upcoming six months will be all about the credit industry. While there are more candidates seeking employment, we haven’t yet seen companies taking advantage of this by offering salaries which are below market. Usually within an economic downturn you see an increase in demand for temporary/contract workers but due to the complexities of onboarding new staff remotely this time around, temporary opportunities have dropped, which in turn has meant that those who are unemployed haven’t been able to even get short-term work while looking for a role which provides stability. While the numbers are lower than pre COVID, permanent recruitment is still happening within several industry sectors such as FMCG, Resources, Government and Financial Services. While in the financial services and telecommunication sector there is talk of a lot of roles moving back onshore, so far this is just a whisper within the transactional accounting space with only a few teams so far bringing roles back home.
Government: The feedback we’ve been receiving from clients and candidates within multiple government areas is that roles are still active within ICT, Policy and Projects (especially for projects focused on driving efficiencies across departments). Rates on offer have remained the same as pre-COVID. Current feedback is that some hiring freezes in place may lift next quarter, however these could be extended. Each year we tend to see temporary contracts conclude around 30 June and 31 December, however this year the numbers weren’t higher than any other year with several contracts extended. Permanent recruitment and hiring of fixed-term contractors in this space is still quite active with multiple departments continuing to build out their teams. The demand for talent within regional locations has also increased on a temporary basis.
Banking & Finance: Demand for Risk and Compliance professionals is still strong, and this industry is still very active with recruitment, especially on a permanent basis. Due to the huge number of hardship requests these organisations had been experiencing, a large number of Collection & Hardship Managers have trained staff from multiple parts of their company on the hardship process and have upskilled a large number of their client services employees. Salaries have remained consistent. While many consumers aren’t entering new mortgages, there are still a lot who are seeking refinancing in the current environment. This has seen an increase in the demand for experienced mortgage professionals particularly within boutique mortgage firms.
Business Support/Customer Service: Business support roles have taken a hit over the past six months and we see this repeatedly during an economic downturn. Currently the demand for business support staff is down, however the demand for experienced project support officers is up as organisations take advantage of this time to get their foundations in place. There is a lot of talk of customer service roles moving back to Australia due to technical issues with offshore call centres during COVID. Again, there hasn’t been the usual demand for temporary staff within this area due to the complexities of onboarding within a remote environment.
What does the future hold? This time last year nobody could ever have predicted COVID-19 and its impact on the global economy. While the future may be uncertain and there are challenging times ahead, there is comfort to be found in the knowledge that companies are still recruiting, organisations are still expanding and there are still job opportunities out there. They may simply take a little longer to find. As we navigate the road ahead together and to the best of our abilities, we encourage all future job candidates to remain positive, continue to network where possible, and prepare themselves for any new professional opportunities that may come along. Remember, even this too shall pass.