ABS figures show unemployment rate unchanged in December

The unemployment rate remained steady at 5.2% last month, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, while other research shows only 9% of workers are actively looking for a new job.


ABS data reveals total employment fell by 29,300 jobs in December, despite expectations there would be 10,000 new jobs. The loss left total job creation for 2011 virtually at zero.


Weak consumer sentiment is already hitting employment prospects in the retail sector, while major banks are looking to shed thousands of jobs over the next two years as demand stagnates.


However, the participation rate – which gauges the share of the population looking for work – sank to 65.2% last month; the lowest rate since May 2010.


This is in line with the latest research from HR firm Randstad, which reveals only 9% of Australian workers are actively looking for a new job, partly due to a lack of confidence.


According to Randstad’s latest labour mobility index, Australian workers’ confidence in finding a new job has continued to tumble, falling to its lowest level in 18 months.


The index tracks changes in the expectation of workers to be employed elsewhere in the next six months. It is measured every quarter as part of Randstad’s Workmonitor.


In December, the index fell by one basis point to 100. The index is seven points lower than it was in the corresponding period last year, indicating workers are exercising caution.


Randstad chief executive Fred van der Tang says economic instability and reduced worker mobility tend to go hand in hand, as workers feel safer staying with their current employer.


“With the Australian economy continuing to feel ripples from overseas economic instability… it’s natural to see workers taking a cautious approach,” he says.


However, van der Tang says there are signs of confidence emerging.


“The research found only 3% of workers are concerned about losing their job, which is lower than we’ve seen recently,” he says.


“This suggests a kind of tug-of-war is occurring between the opportunities created by a tight labour market and the uncertainty of global economic conditions.”


“Employees recognise the labour market pendulum is still favouring them, with the skills shortage continuing to create opportunities and drive up salaries.”


“But uncertainty over the eurozone crisis means – in certain industries – they are a little more cautious than they were at the same time last year.”


According to van der Tang, it is important for employers to adapt their hiring approach to suit the current conditions.


“Employers seeking to attract talent may need to be more creative and should focus on improving and promoting their employer brand. It’s not always about the money,” he says.


“The best employers offer a broad package of benefits and incentives such as training and development opportunities, a good work/life balance and flexible working options.”


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