1.4 Industry employment through 2020

The shape of Australia's post COVID-19 workforce

1.4 Industry employment through 2020

The pandemic had a significant impact on employment across all industries between February and August 2020 (latest available data).

The Accommodation and Food Services industry recorded the largest fall in employment over the period (down by 164,700 or 17.6%). Employment in the Manufacturing industry also remains well below the pre-pandemic level (down by 59,600 or 6.5%), followed by Professional Scientific and Technical Services (down by 53,100 or 4.5%), Other Services (49,700 or 10.2%) and Administrative and Support Services (down by 49,700 or 10.2%).

Positively, employment is now higher than pre-pandemic levels in 7 industries. The Public Administration and Safety industry has recorded the largest increase in employment over the 6 months to August 2020 (up by 60,300 or 7.3%), followed by Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (up by 38,200 or 11.8%) and Financial and Insurance Services (up by 22,300 or 4.8%), Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services (up by 18,300 or 13.8%), Rental Hiring and Real Estate Services (up by 8300 or 3.8%), Mining (up by 6,000 or 2.5%) and Wholesale Trade (up by 4,600 or 1.2%).

Figure 10: Change in employment by industry between February 2020 and August 2020 (‘000s)


These changes over the 6 months to August mask the significant variation in employment dynamics in the two quarters. Between February and May, employment fell in 13 of the 19 industries. Employment has since recovered strongly, increasing in 17 of the 19 industries over the quarter to August.

Accommodation and Food Services was the industry most exposed to COVID-19 related restrictions, and recorded the largest fall in employment over the quarter to May (down by 294,200 or 31.4%). Over the August quarter, however, as restrictions began to ease, this industry recorded the largest increase in employment, of 129,500. Similarly, the Education and Training industry recorded the second largest fall in employment over the initial period (down by 91,500 or 8.1%) and also saw a partial rebound over the 3 months to August. The Arts and Recreation Services, Retail Trade and Health Care and Social Assistance industries also all recorded large falls in employment over the May quarter but, importantly, have all seen a bounce back in employment over
the quarter to August.

Despite the pandemic’s significant impact on the labour market, 5 industries (Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing; Wholesale Trade; Financial and Insurance Services; Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services; and Public Administration and Safety) recorded increases in employment in both quarters. Construction is the only industry in which employment fell in both the May and August quarters.

Figure 11: Change in employment by industry, May and August 2020 quarters