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Jobs, retail turnover stats paint gloomy picture

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Jobs, retail turnover stats paint gloomy picture

Storm clouds over Melbourne

Australian job vacancies are continuing to slow just as retail turnover languishes, latest figures from the Bureau of Statistics show, just days after interest rates were slashed.

Following two successive monthly cuts to interest rates by the Reserve Bank — citing a need to support employment — the ABS’ jobs vacancies data for May 2019 showed a marked slowdown experienced in recent months continuing.

“Growth in the quarterly trend measure of job vacancies was 0.3 [of a percentage point] in May 2019, which was well below the 4.1 per cent a year ago,” ABS chief economist Bruce Hockman said. “This was consistent with the recent slowing in other economic indicators.”

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It is not just a blip on the radar caused by May’s federal election either, the figures suggest, with growth in job vacancies well down over the past year.

“The growth in vacancies over the past year of 4.2 per cent is well below the year before, when it was 20.8 per cent. This is consistent with the recent slowing in other economic indicators,” Mr Hockman said.

What growth was recorded was largely delivered by the public sector, where the number of positions vacant increased by 1.6 per cent in the three months to May, to a total of 21,900.

The private sector barely recorded any growth over the same period, inching up by just 0.1 of a percentage point to 221,200.

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In seasonally adjusted terms, the reading for the May quarter was even worse, with the volume of job vacancies actually falling by 1.1 per cent.

Tasmania saw the largest percentage increase in vacancies over the past year, the ABS said, while Victoria recorded the largest percentage decrease.

Retail turnover barely budges

Separate data on retail turnover also demonstrated ongoing weakness in the Australian economy.

Turnover for the sector nudged up by 0.1 of a percentage point in May (seasonally adjusted), reversing the 0.1 of a percentage point fall recorded in April.

Some retailers fared better than others, with suggestions that Australians are spending less on discretionary items.

“There were mixed results across the industries, with rises in cafes, restaurant and takeaway food services (0.7 of a percentage point); household goods retailing (0.5 of a percentage point); and other retailing (0.6 of a percentage point),” said Ben James, ABS director of Quarterly Economy Wide Surveys.

“These rises were offset by falls in food retailing (-0.3 of a percentage point); department stores (-0.4 of a percentage point); and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (-0.2 of a percentage point).”

However, the result meant that industry turnover over for the year to May was roughly double the current rate of inflation, growing by 2.7 per cent (compared with 1.3 per cent inflation).

Online retailing accounted for a greater volume of sales in May than the prior month, contributing 6.2 per cent to total retail turnover (compared with 5.7 per cent in April).

Where consumers are spending

Below is a breakdown of retail turnover changes in each of the states and territories:

  • Queensland – up by 0.4 of a percentage point
  • South Australia – up by 0.4 of a percentage point
  • Victoria – up by 0.3 of a percentage point
  • Northern Territory – up by 0.3 of a percentage point
  • Australian Capital Territory – up by 0.2 of a percentage point
  • New South Wales – relatively unchanged
  • Tasmania – relatively unchanged
  • Western Australia – down by 0.2 of a percentage point

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Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016. 

The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Email Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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