To describe 2020 as a wild ride is one of the world’s great understatements. For individuals, for Governments, for companies, for everyone.
One of the most challenging aspects has been the uncertainty. With the rate at which things were changing, it was near impossible to forecast the next 24 hours, let alone the next 6-12 months. Even now it remains hard to be certain, though I think it’s fair to say that (1) Australia has coped better than most, (2) there’s a degree of certainty what the next few months will hold, at least domestically.
National Australia Bank’s most recent monthly business survey showed business confidence was at a much improved -25 (up from -65 and -45 the previous 2 months). Still at a very low level but significantly improving. By the way of comparison, NAB’s business confidence measure sat at -2 in February.
The number of adverts on Seek has also made for interesting watching – it’s usually a reasonable barometer of the health of the jobs market. Before the crisis kicked off, there were some 145000 jobs being advertised nationally. That plummeted to 43000 in early May. Today (in early July) there are 96000 jobs on Seek. Much like business confidence, a long way from where it was before the pandemic, but significantly better than at the lowest point.
IT specific job adverts on Seek have broadly followed the same trend, with some subtle differences. 16000 nationally pre-pandemic, 5700 in early May, Some 7500 today. So, IT wasn’t hit quite as hard as some sectors, but hasn’t bounced back quite as hard either.
Our feeling is that IT was seen as very much central to keeping business ticking over, so they avoided the brunt of the cutbacks on the way down. Most of the resurgence to date has been focused on people customer facing roles. Our suspicion is that IT roles will return in a second wave of jobs as the market continues to settle.
This thinking is evidenced by a look at our IT contractor numbers. Sustainability’s contactor numbers have remained rather stable over the COVID crisis. Yes, there have been some wholesale redundancies/stand downs made within the IT groups of some organizations (most notably Qantas & DXC locally), but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
The upshot of that though is that there are far less IT people out of a role than what you might initially think. Generally, in a downturn the market becomes awash with great candidates. Not the case in this instance – it’s actually still not an easy market in which to find good people. Many candidates who might have otherwise been open to new opportunities have decided to stay put for now.
Our feeling is the market is very two speed at the moment: a relatively small number of IT people were let go during the downturn, and they are very flexible in terms of their expectations regarding salaries, seniority, etc. However, the bulk of IT people have kept their jobs and are very reluctant to even look at moving roles.
Over the next fortnight, Sustainability is going to conduct a candidate survey to compliment this paper, and get some more detailed insight as to what candidates are feeling and seeing in the marketplace. Expect the results from that survey to flow out soon after.
Here’s hoping Australia keeps a lid on COVID case numbers. Yes, we also want the global situation to settle, but Australia staying relatively COVID free may provide some short to mid-term stability for many facets of our lives.