Mining investment proving a rich source of new work

The mining industry is one of the biggest providers of new jobs.THE mining industry has leapt ahead of other parts of the economy to become one of the biggest providers of new jobs, hiring an extra 58,100 workers in the year to May.

But in a sign of the challenges facing people seeking work in Victoria, more than two-thirds of the mining jobs created were in Western Australia or Queensland.

New figures yesterday underscored the wrenching change in the labour market, as the economy adjusts to the massive wave of mining investment and the high Australian dollar.

While mining only provides about 2.5 per cent of all jobs, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said it was one of the biggest job creators in the year to May.

Western Australia and Queensland together accounted for more than 40,000 of the new mining jobs, the figures said, while Victoria gained 3000 jobs in the industry.

Despite being concentrated in resource-rich states, the surge made the mining industry the third biggest source of new jobs across the whole economy.

Professional and scientific services, which includes mining-related professions such as engineering, was the largest source of new jobs, followed by healthcare.

A senior economist at Commsec, Savanth Sebastian, said the jobs growth painted a ”very different picture” to recent reports of staff cuts in struggling parts of the economy.

”Not only are businesses holding onto existing staff but they are actively hiring new staff, positioning themselves for the pick-up in growth and investment,” Mr Sebastian said.

The figures also showed the decline in employment in other industries.

The weak housing market took a hefty toll on the construction industry, which shed 58,500 jobs over the year, equalling the gains in mining.

Victoria, which has suffered from an especially weak property market, was the main driver accounting for almost 25,000 of the construction job losses.

Manufacturing, which is being battered by the high Australian dollar, lost 23,000 jobs over the year, as did the struggling retail industry.

However, chief economist at HSBC Paul Bloxham predicted better times ahead thanks to lower interest rates and signs the dollar has peaked.

”I think we’re going to see a bit of support for the retail sector and the housing sector into the second half of this year, because the Reserve Bank has cut interest rates,” he said.

”We’re also going to see some support for manufacturing, that’s been affected by the high exchange rate, because the dollar looks as if it has peaked.”

Despite overall growth in employment in recent months, Mr Sebastian said the increase in mining jobs needed to be kept in perspective.

”The healthcare sector is over five times the size of mining in terms of employment,” he said. ”The ageing population means that more and more workers will be required in healthcare over time.”

The mining jobs rise – and weakness elsewhere – follows last week’s surprise news that 38,900 jobs were created in May.

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