Friday, November 29, 2013

Where the Jobs Were and Are: Employment Trends 1984-2013

The services sector has also long been the major source of employment in the economy. Even in early 1900, services employed over 50 per cent of the working population and it has been on an upward trend increase ever since. 

The employment trend for industry sectors show just how much manufacturing employment has declined since 1984 (and it was in decline well before then) and 
how few people mining directly employs (even if there are a wide range of indirect jobs associated with the sector). 

The following graphs and tables are from the latest ABS data (6291.0.55.003 - Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Aug 2013) 

Mining directly contributed just 2.3 per cent to Australian employment in August 2013, with agriculture contributing 2.6 per cent and manufacturing 7.9 per cent (down from 16.8 per cent in 1984). 

Combined, the three sectors contributed just 12.8 per cent of employment.  

The trend in agricultural and manufacturing employment is clearly down as the chart below shows, while mining employment rose significantly until last year, albeit from a low base.

Service industries dominate employment. IN 2013, Construction contributed 9.2 per cent, Retail trade 10.5 per cent, Professional, scientific and technical services 7.9 per cent and Health care and social assistance 11.9 per cent. 

These sectors plus mining have increased their percentage of employment since the 1980s, whilst the share of employment accounted for by agriculture and manufacturing has declined. 

The two biggest sectors for employment are Health care and social assistance (11.9 per cent) and “retail trade” (10.5 per cent). 

These figures show that a slump in the retail sector probably has a greater short-term impact on employment than a boom in the mining sector. Although construction employment needs to be considered in relation to mining as well. Australia is gradually moving beyond the investment phase of the boom, which should see a decline in the level of construction employees in coming years unless the commercial and residential property sector can take up the slack. 

The major question for coming months is what the Abbott government will continue to support the automotive industry. Even if it does, it seems that the demise of the industry is inevitable over the medium-term. This will have a drastic impact on manufacturing employment.

Given the end of the mining investment boom, right now might not be the best time to let the industry fail. If they do, the flow on effects to other parts of the economy will be large.


 Agricultural, Manufacturing and Mining Employment
Percentage of Total Employment 1984-2013

Selected Services Employment
Percentage of Total Employment 1984-2013

Percentages calculated by author. 

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