Employment in Australia: Don’t generalise

Last week the ABS released its job vacancy data which gave a picture of what’s changed state-by-state in the past twelve months with respect to what we might loosely called the ‘candidate shortage’, or more specifically the ratio of unemployed job seekers to vacant positions.  
Here’s the data, with the comparative period of twelve months earlier:  

 
Feb 2012  
Feb 2011  
State
Job vacancies (000’s)
Unemployed (000’s)
Ratio *
Job vacancies (000’s)
Unemployed

(000’s)
Ratio*
NSW
52.6
199.2
3.8 : 1
49.2
186.7
3.8 : 1
Vic
40.1
159.7
4.0 : 1
47.7
146.6
3.1 : 1
Qld
36.1
136.3
3.8 : 1
38.3
136.8
3.6 : 1
SA
10.8
45.0
4.2 : 1
10.7
47.7
4.5 : 1
WA
31.6
53.4
1.7 : 1
31.5
55.2
1.8 : 1
Tas
1.9
17.8
9.4 : 1
2.3
14.3
6.2 : 1
NT
3.2
5.6
1.8 : 1
3.8
3.2
0.8 : 1
ACT
5.8
7.7
1.3 : 1
6.2
7.5
1.2 : 1
TOTAL
182.1
632.2
3.5 : 1
195.0
603.2
3.1 : 1

 
* of unemployed people to vacancies  
You can see that there is enormous variation on a state-by-state basis.  

  • Victoria’s declining vacancy rate   has seen the biggest ratio change of the big states, easing from 3.1:1 in February 2011 to 4:1 in February 2012.
  • Tasmania experienced the biggest relative change   with the ratio rising sharply to 9.4:1 from 6.2:1 twelve months earlier
  • The Northern Territory continues   to be the most candidate starved  state or territory with its almost farcical situation from twelve months ago of more vacancies than job seekers (0.8:1) only easing slightly twelve months later, but at least on the other side of the ledger, at 1.8:1
  • The ACT, WA and NSW   all had unchanged (or all but)  ratios from twelve months previously

As many people have observed, making generalised observations about the Australian labour market is an unwise thing to do. The ratio of unemployed job seekers to vacancies in each state and territory is just more evidence of that.  

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