Growth in industries, occupations and skill levels

Labour Market Update March 2022 quarter

Growth in industries, occupations and skill levels

Employment growth has varied considerably across Skill Levels, occupations and industries during the pandemic

Detailed ABS Labour Force Survey data for February 2022 (the most recent available data) shows that employment increased for all Skill Level Occupations (1,2,4,5), except for Skill Level 3 Occupations, over the February quarter 2022.

Skill Level 1 Occupations recorded the largest increase in employment over the quarter (up by 162,000 or 3.6%). This accounted for 90.0% of overall employment growth over the period. Skill Level 2 Occupations recorded the second largest increase, (up by 17,200 or 1.0%), followed by Skill Level 5 (16,100 or 0.8%) and Skill Level 4 (10,700 or 0.3%).

Employment in Skill Level 1 and 2 Occupations increased through the pandemic, with employment for Skill Level 1 Occupations increasing by 497,900 (or 11.8%) and Skill Level 2 Occupations increasing by 43,000 (or 2.7%) since February 2020. By comparison, employment for Skill Levels 3, 4 and 5 Occupations has fallen by 167,500 (or 2.3%) over the COVID-19 period.

The shift towards higher skill levels through the COVID period has been an acceleration of a long-term trend, as the workforce has become more highly educated and employment has transitioned towards services-based industries.

As Figure 4 shows, these employment growth trends are in contrast with the percentage growth in job advertisements during the pandemic (where the lower Skill Levels have grown the most). In this regard, it is important to separate short-term job demand post lockdowns from more enduring skills shortages.

Figure 4: Growth in employment and job advertisements (compared to pre-COVID) by Skill Level

Source: ABS, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, February 2022 and NSC, Internet Vacancy Index, March 2022, both seasonally adjusted data

The strong increase in employment over the February 2022 quarter was not evenly distributed across detailed occupations. Indeed, while employment for all occupations increased by 180,000 (or 1.4%) in the February 2022 quarter, employment increased in just 168 of the 358 (or 46.9%) of the detailed occupations.

Similarly, whilst total employment has increased by 377,700 (or 2.9%) for all occupations over the two years to February 2022, just 174 (or 48.6%) of the 358 detailed occupation groups have recorded an increase in employment over the period.

  • Six of the ten occupations with the largest increases in employment since February 2020 were in Skill Level 1. These include Human Resource Managers (up by 78,400 or 111.9%), General Managers (56,500 or 119.1%), Accountants (43,600 or 24.9%), Database and Systems Administrators, and ICT Security Specialists (30,300 or 75.3%) and Chief Executives and Managing Directors (27,400 or 80.5%).

    • The four occupations which were in other Skill Levels were Aged and Disabled Carers (up by 59,400, Skill Level 4), Other Hospitality, Retail and Service Managers (45,200, Skill Level 2), Storepersons (37,200, Skill Level 4) and Sales Assistants (General) (28,400, Skill Level 5).
  • The largest decrease in employment since February 2020 was recorded for Checkout Operators and Office Cashiers (down by 46,300 or 27.1%), followed by Retail Managers (down by 27,700 or 12.0%), Café and Restaurant Managers (26,200 or 32.2%), Livestock Farmers (25,400 or 26.2%), Bank Workers (23,800 or 42.4%) and Commercial Cleaners (20,000 or 11.4%).

These occupational based outcomes will likely reflect a range of factors, including ongoing changes in the structure of the economy and jobs, as well as impacts associated with COVID 19.

ABS Labour Force Survey data for February 2022 (the most recent available data) shows that employment has rebounded strongly across a number of industries and now exceeds pre-COVID-19 levels in 11 of the 19 main industry groups.

Figure 5 shows that during the pandemic, Health Care and Social Assistance, Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, Financial and Insurance Services and Public Administration and Safety made the largest contributions to employment growth. The largest falls in employment were recorded in Wholesale Trade, Manufacturing and Accommodation and Food Services.

Importantly, employment levels for some industries are still recovering after having been impacted by the pandemic. The clearest example would be Accommodation and Food Services, where employment remains 35,800 below pre COVID levels but has recovered strongly over the two quarters to February 2022 (by 78,900 over this period, including 45,900 in the most recent quarter).

Figure 5: Employment growth by industry (‘000), November 2021 to February 2022

Source: ABS, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, February 2022.