27/09/2018 - 12:03

WA mining jobs hit record

27/09/2018 - 12:03

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Job vacancies in Western Australia have reached their highest level in more than five years, while the state's mining industry has hit a record level of employment.

WA mining jobs hit record
There were 27,600 job vacancies in WA in August. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Job vacancies in Western Australia have reached their highest level in more than five years, while the state's mining industry has hit a record level of employment. 

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows local job vacancies at 27,600 in August, up from 24,100 in May.

The last time WA job vacancies were higher was in February 2013, at 31,100.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA chief economist Rick Newnham said the figures highlighted strength in the local labour market.

“WA’s jobs boost is being spurred on by the mining, resources and energy sector, reflecting an increased demand for skilled workers, with SEEK job ads across the country up 29 per cent over the year to August,” he said.

“A major challenge for businesses now, particularly those in regional areas such as the Pilbara, is attracting the right people with the right skills to match those job vacancies.”

The news comes after the ABS’s August unemployment figures revealed the state’s jobless rate was steady at 6.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, the state government has announced that direct employment in the WA mining sector averaged 112,008 people per month over the course of 2017-18, up from 106,490 in the prior year.

The previous high point was 107,871 jobs in 2013-14.

The monthly data - found on the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety web site - shows that employment actually peaked in May 2018 at 117,265 people.

This data series is volatile - it dropped to 114,733 in June 2018.

Th previous high was 114,362 in the month of July 2013.

The department also collates data on mining sector employment on a full-time equivalent (FTE) basis, and this paints a different picture.

It shows the mining industry employed 91,401 FTEs in June 2018 - well below the peak of 107,297 FTEs in August 2013.

This implies the industry has substantially increased its use of part-time workers.

The state government data also showed WA's resources sector lifted sales to $115 billion, up $10 billion on last year.

Acting Mines and Petroleum Minister Francis Logan said the data showed the strength of the sector.

The amount was the second highest financial year sales value on record, behind only the $123 billion achieved in 2013-14, with a number of commodities reaching record production levels including gold, iron ore, LNG and lithium.

The biggest increase in value was by liquefied natural gas, which climbed from $12.7 billion to $19.1 billion, coming off the back of a 32 per cent increase in production.

Lithium continued to return significant increases in both production and value, with sales rising 167 per cent to reach $1.6 billion from production of 2.1 million tonnes.

Nationally, job vacancies inched higher in the three months to August to notch an all-time peak, suggesting that demand for labour would remain healthy for a while yet.

Total job vacancies rose a seasonally adjusted 0.6 per cent to 238,200 in the June-August quarter, from 236,700 in the previous quarter.

That was the highest reading since the series began in 1979.

Vacancies were up 16.5 per cent on a year earlier, though the pace of growth did slow from the previous quarter.

Vacancies in the private sector rose 0.7 per cent to 217,600, again the highest on record.

That was up 17.8 per cent on the previous year.

The public sector saw vacancies dip 0.1 per cent to 20,600.

Bruce Hockman, chief economist at the ABS, noted that the number of unemployed persons per vacancy fell further in the August-quarter, implying that vacancies were increasing at a faster rate than the available spare capacity.

"This is consistent with other indicators in the labour market that are suggesting vacancies are becoming harder to fill," Mr Hockman said in a statement.

Analysts value the vacancies series as it has proved a reliable leading indicator of labour demand and turning points in employment growth.

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