A review of the job market in Australia

The Australian job market has done better than its counterparts in Europe and the United States throughout the economic turmoil of the past few years, but at the start of 2012, things weren’t looking so bright.

Total employment in December fell by 293,000 and the country’s unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent. Bloomberg News reported in January that 2011 was the worst year for the labor force in Australia since 1992. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Jan. 29 that Australia was headed toward an unemployment rate of 6 percent in 2012. While that might seem low to people in many countries, including the U.S., it would be a nine-year high for the land down under.

The Herald reported that there is a gradual erosion of jobs in the retail and farming industries, while other employment sectors, such as manufacturing, are shedding jobs due to global economic factors, including a strong Australian dollar and a tightening of credit. Other top job losers in the second half of 2011 were real estate and other services. Australia’s housing market, which had been doing better than those in most other developed countries, has slumped recently.

The industry adding the most jobs in Australia is healthcare and social assistance. Close behind, though, is the mining industry, with Australia adding more than 41,000 mining jobs in the second half of 2011. The growth in mining jobs in Australia is even more remarkable, considering the industry makes up only 2 percent of all the jobs in Australia. A demand for iron ore and other minerals fueled by a building boom in China has led to the sharp increase in mining jobs and has also led many companies to pay six-figure salaries. The average mining salary was about $108,000 Australian in 2010, about two-thirds higher than the average of all salaries in Australia. The Wall Street Journal reported in November that The Minerals Council of Australia estimates the country will need 86,000 additional mining workers by 2020.

Other Australian job sectors expected to add jobs in 2012, according to the Morning Herald, are public administration, finance and insurance and wholesale. Though the finance industry is expected to do well in the short term overall, analysts are predicting that Australian banks may shed several thousand jobs over the next two years.. That’s in addition to more than 3,300 jobs the sector lost in 2011.

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