Is the Great Resignation over? Job moves are close to multi-decade lows

Matt Mckenzie
The Nightly
About 1.1 million employees made the switch over 12 months.
About 1.1 million employees made the switch over 12 months. Credit: maca/supplied

The so-called “Great Resignation” could be over, with the share of Australians changing jobs close to multi-decade lows.

About 1.1 million employees made the switch across a 12 month period — 8 per cent of workers in the country — according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.

That’s the fourth lowest level on record, and down from 9.6 per cent last year when staff were moving roles in the aftermath of COVID-19.

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But the trend for the past decade has been job mobility far below the level in 1980s and 1990s. Almost one in five workers moved jobs in 1989.

Job search business Indeed’s senior economist Callam Pickering pointed to three key factors.

An ageing population, rising use of non-compete clauses, and the huge costs of housing were all potential causes, Mr Pickering told The Nightly.

Australia’s median age has lifted from 32.5 to nearly 40 since 1981, ABS data shows, and that’s been reflected in the workforce.

“Older workers tend to be more cautious and tend to prioritise job security,” he said.

The housing market has also been growing hotter and rental vacancies in Perth have been running below 1 per cent.

Mr Pickering said workers may not be able to easily move to find jobs.

Non-compete clauses have become increasingly widespread.

About one in five workers were subject to rules limiting their ability to change jobs, according to a Federal Government consultation launched in April.

“Non-compete clauses have been found to apply not only to senior executives, but to many low-wage workers, including boilermakers, hairdressers, early childhood workers and yoga instructors,” Assistant Minister for Competition Andrew Leigh said at the time.

But while there are signs the labour market has loosened, Mr Pickering said it was not a bad time to move roles.

“There’s still a lot of jobs being created . . . well above pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

Commonwealth Bank head of economics Gareth Aird said Seek data showed job ads had fallen 17 per cent over the year to June.

Mr Aird said it was a sign the labour market was looser than what was indicated by unemployment data.

The mobility numbers implied jobs were largely being filled by new workers, he said.

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