Nearly a quarter of retail businesses (23%) have reported job vacancies in February 2023, down 8.5% from November 2022, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The lowest percentage score for reported vacancies in retail was in November 2021 at 15.9%.

Job vacancies in the retail sector have dropped from 49,900 to 36,400 over the quarter. Since pre-pandemic (February 2020), retail trade has seen a 92.4% change in job vacancies.

For comparison, accommodation and food services saw the highest amount of vacancies at 57,800, up from 56,300 in the last quarter, with electricity, gas, water and waste services seeing the lowest amount of 4,500 in February 2023.

Overall, there were 439,000 job vacancies in February 2023, down 1 per cent (-7,000) from November.

ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said job vacancies have dropped by 9% from the peak in May 2022 last year.

He added that while this was the third consecutive quarter of declining job vacancies in Australia, they still remained high.

“Job vacancies in February 2023 were still nearly double what they were three years ago, just before the start of the pandemic,” Jarvis said. “There is still a very high demand for labour from employers across Australia and across all industries.”

The percentage of businesses reporting at least one vacancy fell for the first time in six quarters, down from 28% in November to 24% in February. This was still more than double what it had been in February 2020 (11%).

The quarterly decline in job vacancies was seen in both the private and public sectors, with each falling by around 1% from November 2022 to February 2023.

Western Australia saw the largest quarterly percentage decline in job vacancies, down by 15%. New South Wales recorded the largest percentage quarterly growth, up 9%.

Australian Retailers Association (ARA) CEO Paul Zahra welcomed the decline, but said it is typical for the post-Christmas period. He said the number of vacancies still remains a concern.

“During Christmas, retail vacancies are typically abundant due to the high volume, fast-paced nature of trading and the need for additional staff,” Zahra said.

“When we move into the New Year, those positions are no longer required, which results in a reduction in vacancies.

“We are still concerned about the high number of vacancies and that the rising cost of doing business for retailers may be impacting job vacancies.”

Zahra welcomed government initiatives in combating the crisis so far but said more action is required.

“For us to proactively combat retail job vacancies, it requires investment in our labour force.”

“The Government is making promising strides, increasing the cap on migration and rolling out a suite of initiatives such as the Work Bonus for pensioners – but we’ve still got work to do.

“Despite this reduction, labour shortages remain a predominant issues retailers are facing.”

While job vacancies fell in 11 of the 18 industries, they remained high across most industries when compared with February 2020.

“This continued to be most acute in the accommodation and food services and arts and recreation services industries, where vacancies were around three to four times what they were before the pandemic,” Jarvis said.

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