- Just 9% of respondents in a new Indeed Australia survey are urgently searching for work, including only 12.3% of those currently without a job.
- Around three-quarters of people searching for work either actively or passively would like a job within three months, although most don’t consider their search urgent.
- Financial buffers and fears of COVID-19 are the main reasons unemployed people are not urgently searching for jobs, a concern ramped-up vaccination could alleviate.
While Australia’s economic recovery is cause for celebration, it has created frustration for some employers and recruiters. Jobseekers are showing a degree of apathy to record job creation, with many positions proving difficult to fill.
Australia currently has the most favourable market for jobseekers since the global financial crisis. Conditions have improved rapidly, with job vacancies rising to 2.6% of the Australian labour force. Many employers are in desperate need of staff, with many reporting difficulty finding suitable staff.
To better understand Australia’s labour market dynamics, the Indeed Hiring Lab surveyed 3,500 people in Australia, ages 18-64. The sample included individuals both in and out of the labour force, including employed workers and jobless people. Indeed will survey jobseekers over time to see how their behaviour changes over the course of Australia’s economic recovery.
Although many Australians are keen on getting a new job, searches are often far from urgent, even among those not currently working. Full-time and part-time workers are displaying similar search patterns even though many part-timers are underemployed.
Not surprisingly, the pandemic is a significant impediment to job search. Many unemployed survey respondents reported COVID fears were one of the main reasons they weren’t urgently seeking work. That suggests vaccinations may be an effective strategy for boosting jobseeker activity. Financial buffers, including those created by JobSeeker and other welfare programs, are another reason many people don’t feel pressed to find work.
Australian jobseekers don’t see the urgency
The search for a new job isn’t urgent for most Australians. Only 9% of respondents were actively and urgently searching for a new job. A further 20% said they were actively searching, but not urgently.
That’s creating problems for businesses, particularly medium-size and large ones. Around 45% of medium-size businesses and 43% of large businesses are reporting difficulty finding suitable staff, with lack of appropriate candidates the most common cause.
Naturally, jobseeker urgency partly reflects whether someone currently has a job. Employment provides workers the luxury of being patient, knowing that they can take their time to find the right position, not just any job. The unemployed often have no such luxury.
Jobless respondents to the Indeed survey were 62% more likely than full-time workers and 70% more likely than part-time workers to report they were actively and urgently searching for work.
By comparison, employed Australians were more likely to say they were passively searching for a new job. Part-time workers were more likely to be searching actively than full-time workers — understandable given widespread underemployment. However, they were no more likely than full-timers to view their search as urgent.
Most jobseekers, whether active or passive, would like a new job within the next three months, including 96% of active and urgent job seekers, 89% of active but not urgent jobseekers, and 61% for passive jobseekers.
Where jobseekers really differ is in whether they want a new job immediately. Around 71% of active and urgent jobseekers want a new position right away, but only 47% of active, non-urgent job seekers and 22% of passive jobseekers said the same.
Financial factors and pandemic fears drive lack of urgency
One major reason for a lack of urgency is fear surrounding the pandemic. Around 20% of unemployed respondents reported that worry about returning to work in-person while COVID-19 is active was their major reason for not searching urgently for a new job.
The other principal reason was financial security. Financial buffers, including welfare payments, existing savings or an employed spouse or partner, were frequently cited as explanations why respondents weren’t seeking work urgently.
Financial resources have allowed some people to be more patient and picky about finding a job. Higher-than-normal welfare payments, thanks in large part to the increase in JobSeeker during the pandemic, have provided many households financial security. Around one-quarter of unemployed respondents cited JobSeeker and other welfare payments as their major reason for not urgently seeking employment.
The need to care for children,the elderly or people with disabilities is another important reason some unemployed people are not searching urgently for work. Regular lockdowns may have increased the need to care for others, especially for parents who have had to be available to mind children unable to attend school.
Indeed Australia’s job search survey shows that many workers potentially in the job market are fearful of COVID-19 and reluctant to return to in-person work.
Yet fear of infection is not the only way the pandemic has altered job seeker behaviour. Temporarily higher welfare payments, which have contributed to record savings, have created a financial buffer that may allow some jobseekers to take their time before returning to the workforce. Over time, these financial buffers will diminish, and that could trigger stronger jobseeker activity.
The best way to encourage more job seeking is for Australia to ramp up its vaccine rollout. While Australia’s COVID-19 experience has been different from that of most countries, the pandemic has clearly kept some people from returning to work. Recent lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne suggest the pandemic will be an obstacle to a normal labour market for some time.
This blog post is based on an Indeed online survey conducted July 12 – July 21 of 3,500 Australian adults 18-64. Weights were applied to each survey to match respondent distributions across age, gender and education based on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
We define unemployed workers as those who are jobless and actively searching for paid work, either urgently or not urgently. Respondents who are jobless but only passively looking for work or not open to work are not included in the unemployed category, but are considered out of the labor force.