Mining jobs balance out the losses in construction

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

But in a sign of the challenges facing people seeking work in NSW, more than two-thirds of the mining jobs created were in Western Australia and 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 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 mining jobs. There were also 8100 mining positions created in NSW, which has extensive coal deposits.

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

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

A Commsec economist, 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.

However, 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 of the construction losses, accounting for almost 25,000 of the job losses.

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

The stark difference between jobs growth in mining and other parts of the economy is the latest illustration of the two-speed economy – which is also reflected in much lower unemployment in the west.

However, economists said conditions in non-mining sectors may soon improve.

The chief economist at HSBC, Paul Bloxham, predicted better times ahead for some of the weak industries, 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,” Mr Bloxham 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 though it has peaked.”

Despite overall growth in employment, 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.”

The jump in mining employment – and weakness elsewhere – follows the news last week that 38,900 jobs were created in May.

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