Labour market softens for commercial cleaning sector

Commercial cleaners have experienced more job-losses than workers in almost all other occupations in the country, a recent report has shown.

5400 workers employed as commercial cleaners lost their jobs in the sector in the year to November 2023, the Jobs and Skills Australia Labour Market Update released in February revealed.  

The report showed the only other occupation to record a steeper fall in its workforce was checkout operators and office cashiers – 5700 or 4.1 percent of those workers were no longer employed in the sector. 

More than 145,000 Australians were employed as commercial cleaners as of November 2023, down 3.6 percent from a year earlier and 7.1 percent – or slightly more than 11000 workers – from five years ago. 

The report – the first update released for 2024 – shows an ease in labour market conditions across Australia over the December 2023 quarter, with an ongoing shift away from full-time employment towards part-time jobs growth over the period.

“While underlying labour market conditions remain reasonably tight (with the unemployment

rate standing at 3.9 percent in December 2023) Treasury’s latest Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook suggests that the unemployment rate will edge up further in the period ahead, to 4.25 percent in the June quarter 2024,” the report states. 

“The softer underlying conditions, and an expected further slowing in hours worked, are also likely to result in a further rise in the underemployment rate, highlighting that some space capacity is evident in the labour market.”

The health care and social assistance industry made the largest contribution to employment growth over the year to November 2023, continuing the trend of strong growth in the industry over the past two decades.

The largest increases in employment were recorded for aged and disabled carers (up by 21,000 or 7.4 percent ), followed by registered nurses (up by 16,000 or 5 percent), and management and organisation analysts (up by 11,100 or 10.7 percent).

Checkout operators and office cashiers experienced the largest decline (down by 5700 or 4.1%), followed by commercial cleaners and office managers (down by 5300 or 3.9%).

Office managers and sales assistants saw the third and fourth largest employment declines, down 5300 (3.9 percent) and 4800 (0.9 percent) workers respectively. 

Data from Jobs and Skills Australia’s Survey of Employers who have Recently Advertised

showed overall that employers were still experiencing challenges in finding suitably skilled workers to fill vacant positions.

“While recruitment difficulty has fallen across both higher and lower-skilled occupations over the year, employers continued to encounter greater difficulty recruiting for higher-skilled occupations than those with vacancies for lower-skilled occupations,” the report stated. 

Despite some calls about staffing concerns from the cleaning and hygiene sector, human resources experts advised employers must prioritise recruitment and retention strategies.  

The full Labour Market Update is available on the Jobs and Skills Australia website.

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