Job mobility falls during first year of pandemic: Australia

Job mobility fell during the first year of the pandemic to its lowest level on record, according to annual statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

Bjorn Jarvis, head of Labour Statistics at the ABS, said: “In the 12 months to February 2021, 7.5 per cent of employed people changed their employer or business. This was down from 8.1 per cent in the previous year.

“Job mobility in Australia has been generally trending down for decades and reached a new low during the first year of the pandemic. Around 82,000 fewer people changed jobs than in the year before.”

The fall in job mobility was particularly pronounced for males (falling from 8.4 per cent to 7.5 per cent), compared with females (7.8 per cent to 7.6 per cent).

Job mobility fell in five of the eight major occupation groups. The largest falls were for managers (7.3 per cent to 5.2 per cent), professionals (8.0 per cent to 6.5 per cent) and machinery operators and drivers (9.4 per cent to 7.9 per cent), which were also occupations less impacted by falls in employment early in the pandemic. Falls were also seen for sales workers (11.1 per cent to 9.8 per cent) and technicians and trade workers (8.7 per cent to 7.9 per cent).

Job mobility increased for labourers (7.7 per cent to 9.2 per cent) and community and personal service workers (8.6 per cent to 9.7 per cent) and remained stable for clerical and administrative workers (7.1 per cent).

Changes in job mobility also varied by industry, with the largest increase in Accommodation and food services (14.3 per cent to 17.1 per cent) and the largest decrease in Rental, hiring and real estate services (11.3 per cent to 6.8 per cent).

“In changing jobs during the first year of the pandemic, people were more likely to change their industry (59 per cent) than their occupation (47 per cent). They were also more likely to change to a job with more hours (37 per cent) than to a job with the same hours (32 per cent) or less hours (31 per cent),” Mr Jarvis said.

In February 2021, there were 2.2 million people who were not working but wanted to work, up from 2.1 million people in February 2020. This included over 800,000 unemployed people and 1.4 million people not in the labour force (who were either not actively looking for work and/or not available to work in the survey reference week).

Not everyone who wanted to work was available to work. Of the 2.2 million people in February 2021 who wanted to work, 1.4 million were available to start work immediately and a further 485,000 within 4 weeks (but not immediately).

There were 862,000 people in February 2021 who wanted to work, were available to start either immediately or within 4 weeks, but did not actively look for work. The main reasons they did not actively look for work were: attending an educational institution (223,000 people), child care factors (138,700 people) and responses indicating that they were a ‘discouraged job seeker’ (113,000 people, up from 103,000 in February 2020).

Almost nine out of every ten unemployed people (88 per cent) reported having some difficulty finding work in February 2021, up from 86 per cent in February 2020.

“The most common reasons reported were too many applicants for available jobs (21 per cent), insufficient work experience (14 per cent), ill health or disability (11 per cent) and no vacancies in their line of work (10 per cent),” Mr Jarvis said.

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