Employment boost: Seasonal job ads surge as holiday season looms

Retailers are looking to put on more holiday staff this year than in 2019 despite the impact of the pandemic.

Retailers are looking to put on more holiday staff this year than in 2019 despite the impact of the pandemic. Photo: The New Daily

Christmas has come early for some job hunters as retailers and other businesses ramp up their search for holiday workers.

New data from jobs site Indeed reveals more ads for Christmas season jobs have been posted so far in 2020 than had been posted by the end of September 2019.

Christmas job ads as a share of overall job postings is up 46 per cent on last year, the data shows, and now account for about 30,000 ads in every one million.

Roughly three-quarters of these jobs are in the retail sector.

It’s good news for job seekers, especially young Australians and students looking for part-time and casual work over coming months, said Indeed APAC economist Callam Pickering.

But overall hiring remains well below normal – and the number of Australians looking for work is expected to surge as JobKeeper and JobSeeker support payments are steadily reduced.

Seasonal job ads – defined as postings including at least one holiday-themed word in the description – traditionally experience a spike at the end of the year as businesses put on additional staff to handle surging Christmas trade.

Despite a global pandemic triggering Australia’s first recession in 30 years, this trend has continued in 2020, Mr Pickering told The New Daily.

“What we’re seeing is surprisingly strong job numbers for the Christmas holidays – that mainly reflects the retail sector,” he said.

“It’s a surprise because obviously the retail sector has been hammered across the year and yet they seem pretty upbeat about the Christmas period.”

Mr Pickering noted retail trade has done relatively well in recent months, despite suffering its biggest monthly and quarterly declines on record earlier in the year.

But the recent strength was underpinned by government support payments – notably JobKeeper and JobSeeker – that are being reduced.

And although fast-tracked income tax cuts will translate to an increase in discretionary spending, Mr Pickering said the boost would likely be small.

The reduced support payment rates would also prompt more unemployed Australians to look for work, he said.

The small spike between March and April is likely due to a sudden drop in overall searches.

Indeed data shows searches for Christmas jobs has so far lagged ad postings, meaning many roles are still available.

But although Mr Pickering expects to see the total number of job ads increase in the months ahead, job searches will likely also climb and could outstrip new ads.

“More job postings in general will help the economy, but we are seeing a lot of people who weren’t actively looking for work come back into the job market,” he said.

“That could lead to a shift in the number of people applying, especially for those entry-level roles – they’re the ones where you tend to see 50, 100, even 200 people applying.”

As of August, 1.45 million Australians were relying on JobKeeper.

‘Tensions are high’

Despite the fall in government support, Australian Retailers Association CEO Paul Zahra said the federal budget “ticks many of the retail boxes”.

Other policies designed to encourage customer spending (such as tax cuts) and provide tax relief to small businesses (like new instant asset write-off rules) should support the sector.

But even so, the next few months will be critical for many.

“Many retailers make up to two-thirds of their profits during the Christmas season,” he told The New Daily.

“Tensions are high as retailers aim to replenish their cash reserves after what has been a very challenging year.”

Many retailers will still have to contend with a “debt time-bomb” created by rent deferrals and other temporary relief measures offered to business owners, Mr Zahra added.

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