Christmas Won’t Come Early for Aussie Job Seekers

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Normally a time for joy, Christmas may provide little but despair for thousands of Aussie job seekers. Despite strong interest, job opportunities are well down in the past two years.

Key points: 

  1. In 2019, Christmas job postings from August to October are down 22% compared with the same period last year.
  2. By comparison, search volumes are elevated and have even held up throughout November, despite fewer opportunities. Lower postings and high search activity suggests that more job seekers will miss out on a Christmas job this year.
  3. Most Christmas job postings are in retail, more specifically clothing and footwear.

Christmas is just around the corner but for retailers it began months ago. Job postings for Christmas jobs begin in August, peaking in October, with retailers hoping to lock in their staff and scheduling long before the big day.

Unfortunately, this Christmas is gearing up to be a bit of a stinker. Job postings this year peaked well below 2017 and 2018, normally a sign that retailers lack confidence or are concerned about holiday spending. That’s understandable given soft retail growth this year, underpinned by persistently low wage growth. And that’s bad news for job seekers.

For many job seekers, part-time and casual work over the Christmas break is an ideal way to make pocket money while on holiday. But they are also a crucial foothold on the employment ladder, providing work experience and training, which can lead to employment on a more permanent basis. 

From August to October, job searches for Christmas positions tracked similarly to the past two years. That’s despite 20% fewer job opportunities. With youth unemployment at 11.7% and rates of underemployment uncomfortably high, it is no wonder that Christmas jobs remain highly attractive for job seekers. 

Christmas recruitment starts early

Many Christmas roles might be casual but there is nothing casual in the way Australian businesses approach the Christmas recruitment season. Hiring begins in August, normally peaking in September or October, with businesses finalising recruitment and schedules well before Christmas arrives. 

There have been fewer job opportunities this year compared with last. And the number of job postings has already passed its peak, falling rapidly throughout November. Three weeks before the big day and there are few opportunities left.

Search activity tends to peak in October or November, a little later than job postings. Strong search volumes, against lower than normal job postings, suggest that this year a sizable share of job seekers might miss out on a Christmas gig. Search activity even held up throughout November, contrary to previous years, despite the sizable fall in opportunities. Those who haven’t found a job yet might be feeling a little desperate.

Who is hiring this Christmas?

Most Christmas roles are in the retail sector. Nevertheless, other areas of the economy benefit from greater retail turnover. For example, holiday shoppers, while frantically buying toys and clothes, also need refreshments, creating hospitality roles. And all those toys and clothes don’t magically appear on shelves. Instead, they must be transported from warehouses, creating opportunities in transport and logistics. 

Yet the major employers are retailers, with clothing and footwear always ranking highly among businesses with the highest number of job postings. The top two spots go to conglomerates, Hanes Brands and Brand Collective, who hire for a range of different brands across clothing and footwear. If that’s not your go then perhaps Supercheap Auto or Boating, Camping and Fishing (BCF) offer alternatives. 

This year has been tough for the retail sector and Christmas appears to be no exception. A lack of retail confidence is not only holding back the economy but can also be viewed as a leading source of youth unemployment. Many of these Christmas opportunities are prime roles for younger workers, often students, who have been starved of opportunity. And that is reflected by the high search activity for these roles; they are keenly fought over by job seekers across the country. Unfortunately this year, many job seekers may miss out. 

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