2.3 Rebounding occupations

Of the 358 occupations, around one-third (122, or 34.1%) recorded an increase in employment in the August quarter after experiencing a decline in employment in the May quarter. If we consider these occupations to be ‘rebounding’ from the initial impacts of COVID-19 on the labour market, most of these rebounding occupations (69, or 56.6%) still recorded a decline in employment over the 6 months to August 2020, despite employment growth in the August quarter. This highlights the conceptual difference between the occupational resilience framework and a simpler analysis of quarterly changes to employment data, which in isolation can be volatile.

Not surprisingly, occupations that were directly impacted by trading restrictions and social distancing measures were among those recording a particularly strong ‘rebound’. For instance, of all 358 occupations, the 4 that recorded the largest falls in employment in the May quarter 2020 (Waiters, Sales Assistants (General), Bar Attendants and Baristas, and Kitchenhands) were also the 4 occupations that recorded the largest increase in employment in the August quarter 2020. Other rebounding occupations that exhibited large movements in employment over both quarters can be seen in Table 4 below.

Table 4: Top 10 rebounding occupations, ranked by the sum of the absolute change in employment over each quarter

  Employment August 2020 (‘000) Change in employment over the quarter to August 2020 Change in employment over the quarter to May 2020 Change in employment from February to August 2020
    (‘000) (%) (‘000) (%) (‘000) (%)
Waiters 93.5 56.6 153.8 -104.9 -74.0 -48.2 -34.0
Sales Assistants (General) 472.0 28.8 6.5 -67.9 -13.3 -39.1 -7.7
Bar Attendants and Baristas 92.4 36.4 65.1 -49.4 -46.9 -13.0 -12.3
Kitchenhands 122.4 21.3 21.0 -34.6 -25.5 -13.3 -9.8
Automobile Drivers 48.2 19.7 69.4 -26.0 -47.8 -6.3 -11.6
Retail Managers 230.7 19.9 9.5 -25.8 -10.9 -5.9 -2.5
Chefs 82.1 6.3 8.3 -32.0 -29.7 -25.7 -23.8
Child Carers 125.1 13.2 11.8 -19.4 -14.8 -6.2 -4.7
Sports Coaches, Instructors and Officials 29.5 9.6 48.6 -21.3 -51.8 -11.7 -28.4
Beauty Therapists 32.1 8.6 36.6 -17.0 -42.0 -8.4 -20.7

Source: NSC occupational resilience framework.

The resilient occupations framework helps with our understanding of employment dynamics in a highly volatile labour market. As the partial recovery in the economy continues – albeit uneven – across those occupations most impacted by COVID-19 to May 2020, the extent of structural change around the provision of essential services evident in the early months of the pandemic is likely to diminish, with some occupations that saw large initial declines in employment likely to still offer good employment prospects over the coming years. The resilient occupations framework complements other forward-looking approaches focused on the recovery path the labour market is taking, such as computable general equilibrium modelling discussed later in this report, and will evolve over time as more data become available.