The rate of employees shifting to new businesses or industries has fallen for the first time in three years, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed. 

According to ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis, around eight per cent of employed people - or 1.1 million people - changed their employer or business in the 12 months to February 2024.

“This was down 1.5 percentage points from 9.6 per cent in February 2023 and back to around what we typically saw during the five years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jarvis said.

“Job mobility rates have fallen for both men and women, but fell by more for men. As a result, job mobility over the past year was slightly higher for women at 8.2 per cent, compared to 7.9 per cent for men, after having been higher for men for most of the past decade.”

Retail trade is third in line when it comes to both new entrants and shifting workers combined, behind hospitality and healthcare.

Retail welcomed 174,100 new entrants in the last 12 months to February this year, with 103,700 shifting to new jobs.

Overall, job mobility for retail fell from 11.8 per cent in the full year to February 2023, to 9.3 per cent in the full year to February this year. 

The rate of people leaving retail has also declined from 11.9 to 11.1.

Overall, Jarvis said that younger workers are still more mobile than older workers, with 12.6 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds changing jobs. 

“However, youth job mobility was noticeably lower than the high of 15.9 per cent we saw in 2022 during the pandemic, and well below rates of more than 20 per cent seen 20 years ago,” Jarvis said.

“Falls in job mobility over the past year were seen across all age groups, though they remained slightly higher than pre-pandemic levels in the older age groups." 

“Sales workers still had the highest mobility rate, with 9.7 per cent changing jobs. This was closely followed by community and personal service workers at 9.6 per cent.” 

Job mobility rates fell in all industries, except for information media and telecommunications (up 1.8 percentage points) and other services (up 0.1 percentage points). 

The largest falls were in arts and recreation services (down 5.4 percentage points), followed by transport, postal and warehousing (down 4.5 percentage points).

“Over the year, 36 percent of people changed to a job with the same usual hours, while 33 per cent changed to a job with fewer hours and 32 per cent changed to a job with more hours,” Jarvis said.

There were also more potential workers in February 2024 compared to February 2023, from 1.8 million people to 1.9 million. More potential workers than last year

Of these people, around 555,000 were unemployed while actively looking for work, while 1.3 million were people not in the labour force - who were either not actively looking for work and/or not available to work.

“Of the people who wanted to work, just over 1 million people were available to start work straight away, and an additional 483,000 people were available to start within four weeks but not immediately,” Jarvis said.

“The remaining 330,000 people said they weren’t going to be available for more than a month.”

There were 810,000 people in February 2024 who wanted to work, were available to start either immediately or within four weeks, but did not actively look for work. 

The main reasons given were because people were attending an educational institution (197,000 people, or 24 per cent), caring for children (112,000 people, or 14 per cent), or had a long-term health condition or disability (98,000 people, or 12 per cent).

In February 2024, around 82 percent of unemployed people reported having difficulty finding work, which was similar to February 2023. 

The main difficulty reported was that there were too many applicants for available jobs (12.7 per cent), followed by people saying they had insufficient work experience (10.8 per cent), or that ill health or disability was a factor (10.7 per cent). 

“More people reported difficulties related to labour market conditions in February 2024, compared with February 2023, when the labour market was particularly tight," Jarvis said. 

“While generally still low, more unemployed people in 2024 said the main difficulty was that there were too many applicants for available jobs, that they didn’t have enough work experience, and that there were no vacancies in their line of work.”

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