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Indeed Job Search Survey August 2021: Search Urgency Rises in Australia as Economy Deteriorates

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The August Indeed Australia Job Search Survey found greater worker urgency to find new jobs, concentrated in New South Wales and Victoria.

Key points:

  • Around one in nine respondents in the August Indeed Australia Job Search Survey is urgently searching for work, up from one in eleven a month ago.  
  • The increase in urgency was driven by New South Wales and Victoria, states experiencing extended and widespread economic restrictions.  
  • COVID-19 fears are impeding job search, with unemployed respondents expressing concern in August. 
  • Financial considerations are driving some people to seek new opportunities, while safety nets allow others to take time before returning to work.

Australia’s economic recovery has plunged into chaos recently following extended lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne, and short-term restrictions elsewhere across the country. 

So far the impact on hiring and employment has been relatively modest. Indeed Australia job postings remain at healthy levels and employment still above its pre-pandemic peak. Yet the vast shift in Australia’s economic fortunes, from strong recovery to possible recession, may trigger changes in business and household behaviour. 

The Indeed Hiring Lab polled 3,500 people in Australia, ages 18-64, in mid-August, the second edition of our Job Search Survey. The sample took in people in and out of the labour force, including employed workers and jobless individuals. Indeed will continue to survey Australians to see how behaviour changes during the nation’s current lockdown and an eventual economic recovery. 

In August, the hunt for work became more pressing, with one in nine respondents actively and urgently searching for work, up slightly from July. The driving factor was greater urgency in New South Wales and Victoria, a consequence of recent lockdowns. COVID-19 fears remain elevated in August, highlighting the importance of Australia’s vaccine rollout.

Greater urgency in the hunt for work

In August, a larger share of Australians said they were urgently seeking a new job compared with a month earlier. Some 11.2% of respondents reported they were actively and urgently searching for a position, up from 9% in July. A further 20% noted they were actively, but not urgently, searching. 

In the past, lack of urgency has been a problem for businesses, particularly medium-size and large ones. Around 45% of medium-size businesses and 43% of large businesses report difficulty finding suitable staff, with a shortage of appropriate candidates the most common cause. Unfortunately, increased job search intensity has coincided with lockdowns that are hampering many businesses, leaving them poorly placed to take advantage of the rise in eager jobseekers. 


Bar chart titled “Australian jobseeker behavior.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 50%, Indeed compared the percentage of the survey population aged 18 to 64 “actively looking, urgently,” “actively looking, not urgently,” “passively searching,” or “not searching” for jobs with different coloured bars representing July and August 2021. In August 2021, 10.7% of respondents were actively and urgently searching for a job, up from 9% in July, with a further 20% actively searching but not urgently.

Full-time workers accounted for the increased jobseeker urgency in August. Urgency among part-time workers and jobless people was largely unchanged. 

Geographically, greater urgency was concentrated in New South Wales and Victoria, which are facing extended economic restrictions. In New South Wales and Victoria, 13.3% and 11.1% of respondents respectively said they were actively and urgently searching for work, up from 8.1% and 7.8% in July. Search urgency dropped a little in the rest of the country.

Increased urgency among jobseekers is precisely what you’d expect in a deteriorating economic environment triggered by strict lockdowns. Loss of hours, unemployment and reduced job security can be powerful incentives for seeking a new job.


Bar chart titled “Urgent search rising among lockdown states.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 15%, Indeed compared the percentage of the population aged 18 to 64 actively and urgently searching for work across New South Wales, Victoria, and the rest of Australia, with different coloured bars representing July and August 2021. In New South Wales and Victoria, 12.3% and 11.0% of respondents, respectively, said that they were actively and urgently searching for work.

Adults ages 35-44 showed greater search urgency than other age groups. People of this age typically have considerable financial responsibilities, such as dependent children or a mortgage, that may explain their greater search urgency compared with the very young and those nearing retirement age.      


Bar chart titled “Australian job search behaviour by age group.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 80%, Indeed compared the percentage of the population searching for work in August 2021 between 18 to 24-year-olds, 25 to 34-year-olds, 35 to 44-year-olds, 45 to 54-year-olds, and 55 to 64-year-olds, with different coloured bars representing “actively looking, urgently,” “actively looking, not urgently,” and “passively looking.” There is a greater search urgency among 35 to 44-year-olds than in any other age group.

Finances are the major driver of urgent job search

Finances are typically at the core of jobseeker behaviour, urgent or otherwise. 

Among people actively and urgently searching for a new job, almost 34% of employed individuals were seeking a higher salary or wage. Meanwhile, 45% of unemployed jobseekers were looking for work because of a dwindling financial cushion. 

Finances also explain why some people weren’t pressed to find employment. In August, around 20% of jobless respondents reported a financial cushion was the main reason they weren’t searching urgently for a new job. A further 15% said welfare payments reduced the urgency of finding work.

The biggest single reason unemployed respondents gave for not searching urgently for work was fear about COVID-19. The responses followed coronavirus outbreaks in Sydney and Melbourne.


Bar chart titled “COVID fears and finances behind lack of urgency.” With a horizontal axis ranging from 0 to 30%, Indeed compared the main reason given by survey respondents for “not urgent” job search among non-urgent unemployed with different coloured bars representing July and August 2021. In August 2021, around 19% of unemployed respondents reported that their existing financial cushion was their main reason for not searching urgently for a new job.

Most jobseekers want a new job soon

Most jobseekers wanted a new job within the next three months, including 98% of active and urgent jobseekers, 87% of active but not urgent jobseekers, and 69% of passive jobseekers. 

Jobseekers differed in whether they wanted a new job immediately. Around 76% of active and urgent jobseekers wanted a new position right away, up from 71% in July. By comparison, 46% of active, non-urgent jobseekers and 24% of passive jobseekers preferred to start work immediately, broadly unchanged from July. 


Bar chart titled “Urgent jobseekers want a new role immediately.” With a vertical axis ranging from 0% to 100%, Indeed tracked the percentage of the survey respondents wanting a new job immediately aged 18 to 64 between those that stated they were “actively looking, urgently,” “actively looking, not urgently,” or “passively searching” with different coloured bars representing July and August 2021. In August 2021, around 77% of active and urgent jobseekers said they want a new position right away, up 71% from July 2021.

Conclusion

An increased share of Australian jobseekers are searching urgently for new work, Indeed Australia’s August Job Search Survey shows. The trend is particularly notable in New South Wales and Victoria,  presumably reflecting recent lockdowns in those states. 

Finances cut both ways in job search behavior. In some cases, they are a driving force in searches for new employment. In other cases, safety net programmes or financial cushions allow people to take time before returning to work. Household finances have shifted wildly in both directions during the pandemic, reflecting job losses on one hand  and fiscal support measures on the other hand. 

Recent lockdowns in Sydney and Melbourne suggest the pandemic will impede a return to a normal labour market for the foreseeable future. Whether these population centers emerge from lockdown depends heavily on Australia’s vaccine rollout. So far, Sydney and Melbourne have had only limited success containing the Delta variant via traditional lockdown methods. 

Indeed’s survey suggests that COVID-19 looms large over job search activity in both regions. It may be increasing search urgency among those who’ve lost jobs or hours. At the same time, it’s limiting job search among those fearful of catching the disease. 

Methodology

This blog post is based on an Indeed online survey conducted August 9-20 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. 

The Hiring Lab defines 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 instead are considered out of the labor force.