One in five businesses is having difficulty finding suitably skilled workers, even though the unemployment rate remains high as a result of the COVID-19 recession.
The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics survey on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business also found two-thirds of medium and large employing firms plan to hire new staff over the next three months.
“Businesses reported having difficulty finding suitably skilled tradespersons, hospitality workers and STEM professionals,” ABS head of industry statistics John Shepherd said on Wednesday.
“Other in-demand jobs included labourers, drivers and managers.”
Almost one in six businesses reported that, based on current operations, they did not have a sufficient number of employees.
“With the jobless rate at seven per cent nationally in October, it is hard to believe that Aussie businesses are experiencing a skills shortage,” Commonwealth Securities senior economist Ryan Felsman said.
But he warned it could present an obstacle to the employment recovery.
The findings came ahead of Thursday’s official labour force figures for November.
Economists’ forecasts centre on a 40,000 increase in the number of people employed during November, after the surprising 178,800 surge in October.
That is expected to keep the unemployment rate at seven per cent, still shy of the 22-year high of 7.5 per cent seen in June.
In the minutes of its December board meeting released on Tuesday, the Reserve Bank said the jobless rate was unlikely to reach eight per cent as previously feared.
Separately, new home sales rose by a further 15.2 per cent in November to reach a decade high.
The Housing Industry Association’s monthly survey of the five largest home builders in the five biggest states showed in the three months to November, sales were 41.1 per cent higher compared to the same period last year.
HIA economist Angela Lillicrap said the extension of the federal government’s HomeBuilder scheme should see strong sales for new homes reach into 2021.
“Low interest rates, house price growth and a change in consumer preferences away from apartment style living, have all seen demand for detached housing rise,” Ms Lillicrap said.
“The strength of new home sales is a positive sign that home building will support the broader economy as we enter 2021.”
A pointer to future economic growth also suggests the recovery looks set to continue at a solid clip in the early stages of next year.
The Westpac-Melbourne Institute leading index – which indicates the likely pace of economic activity three to nine months into the future – was running at 4.38 per cent in November.
“This is the strongest growth rate in the 60-year history of the measure,” Westpac chief economist Bill Evans said.
This is signalling an annual growth rate above the long-term trend of 2.75 per cent.
Mr Evans said the strength of the index was consistent with Westpac’s recent upgrade to its annual growth forecasts – from minus three per cent to minus two per cent for 2020 and from 2.8 per cent to four per cent in 2021.