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Business facts and figures you never knew (but ought to)

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
19 September 2018 3 minute readShare
business, analytics, graphs, figures, numbers

Where are particular industries most heavily concentrated? Which sectors have the greatest demand for workers? Is business competition really getting more intense? New analysis by the ABS has revealed some fascinating insights into business ownership and employment.

The Jobs in Australia report explored a range of data compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), and identified where jobs are most heavily concentrated by industry, and where the growth rates in employment have been clustered, between the 2012 and 2016 financial years.

Among the more peculiar findings are a surge in the number of business owners aged 85 plus, as well as a spike in owner-operated business numbers when Malcolm Turnbull became PM.


“We know that Australians worked a total of more than 18.5 million jobs in 2015-16, an increase of 490,000 jobs since 2011-12,” said Bruce Hockman, chief economist at the ABS.

“Delving deeper, we see that in 2015-16, Melbourne’s south-east was the hotspot for manufacturing jobs, particularly in the Dandenong, Hampton Park – Lynbrook and Keysborough regions.”


Middle age less desirable to run a business

Looking at the figures into owner managers of unincorporated enterprises, it is somewhat surprising to see that middle age is a decreasingly attractive time in one’s life to run a business.

In 2015-16, there were 223,100 business owners aged between 50 and 54 – higher than any other age group. However, this has steadily declined since 2011-12, when the number sat at 247,300.

Those age brackets immediately either side also experienced a similar rate of decline.

However, for people aged 30-34 years, that number has steadily increased, rising from 148,800 to 203,900 – a rise of more than one-third (37 per cent). Yet it is not just the young who are increasingly moving into self-employment.



Every age bracket from 65 to 69 years and above, with the scale going to 85 years and over, saw a steady increase in business ownership.

In fact, by 2016 there were an impressive 10,200 people aged 85 plus who owned a business.

Business numbers on the decline

A breakdown by state and territory shows that, over the five-year period, virtually all saw a drop in the total number of owner manager run businesses operating within its borders.

The number of owner managers fell in all states and territories other than Victoria, which saw an increase of 5,500.

Most states bottomed out in 2014-15 before rebounding in the last year the analysis covered. Victoria had followed the pattern before a sharp upswing was recorded in 2015-16. The Northern Territory was the only one not to continue falling that year.

This had a direct corresponding impact on the number of jobs available in owner manager businesses, which also rebounded in 2015-16, but still below the level recorded in 2011-12.

It is interesting to note that these U-turns in the number of business owners and people they employ occurred in the same year in which Mr Turnbull became prime minister (on 15 September 2015).

Wage growth bypassing youth

A look at median employment income shows that over the five-year period, virtually all age groups enjoyed an increase in their earnings.

Income peaked for those aged between 40 and 44 years, and steadily declined thereafter – with particularly large drop-offs for those aged 60 to 64 and 65 to 69 years.

Youth, however, were noticeably absent from the increase in income. Those situated in the various age groups between 15 and 24 saw their earnings virtually unchanged over the period.

Somewhat surprisingly, they were usurped by children aged 14 years or less, whose incomes exploded by around 250 per cent over the period, with sizeable gains in each of the five financial years.

Regional versus metropolitan employment

Brisbane and Hobart are the only capital cities that employ less people than the rest of their respective states combined, suggesting it is more competitive for regional employers in Queensland and Tasmania to compete for candidates than in any other state.

In all others, the capital city accounted for the lion’s share of employment opportunities. But regional Queensland collectively employs more people than metropolitan Brisbane, with the same situation occurring in Tasmania.

The ABS figures show that in 2015-16, there were just shy of 18.5 million jobs nationwide. Of those, Sydney employs roughly 2 million more people than the rest of NSW combined. Melbourne employs 2.5 million more.

Adelaide has more than three times the number of jobs than the rest of the state combined, while Perth is roughly four times.

Meanwhile, the rest of Queensland has roughly 700,000 more jobs than greater Brisbane does, while in the island state, it’s around 40,000 more jobs in the wider state than can be found in Hobart.

Where the jobs are at

Manufacturing jobs were found to be most heavily concentrated in Melbourne’s south-east, particularly in the suburbs in and around Dandenong, Hampton Park, Lynbrook and Keysborough.

Inner Sydney, Haymarket and The Rocks account for the nation’s highest concentration of jobs in accommodation and food services, retail trade, as well as administrative and support services.

WA was beaten into second place in terms of region with the highest number of mining jobs. Mount Isa in Queensland took out the title, followed by Perth’s CBD and Kalgoorlie.

Overall, healthcare employs the greatest number of people of any sector, accounting for just over 10 per cent of all jobs in 2015-16. But it appears this is due to many of these jobs not being full-time, as the sector also accounted for the largest proportion of its workforce employed in more than one job simultaneously.

Among businesses operated by an owner manager, jobs are concentrated in the construction sector.

On the employee/employer split, the ABS noted that there were 2 million jobs held by owner managers in the 2016 financial year. That compared with 16.5 million jobs held by employees.

Business facts and figures you never knew (but ought to)
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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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