Australian IT unemployment rises, with 6,900 out of work in May

The number of unemployed IT workers in Australia has increased in line with national trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, but some tech jobs are still very much in demand.

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The number of unemployed Australians in the information, media and telecommunications sector has increased in line with national trends during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 6,900 professionals out of work in May, according to the latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

ABS conducts two sets of labour force surveys: a monthly poll, and a quarterly one done during the first days of February, May, August and November.

Job losses brought total tech and media unemployment to 6,900 in May, an increase of 1,300 over May 2019. In February, before lackdowns were enforced, the unemployment figure was 4,900, up by 500 over the year-earlier number.

Although the jobless numbers have increased, the IT industry remains one of the strongest, with unemployment numbers being lower than all other sectors but one -- utilities and waste services.

The numbers for the tech and media sector cover both full-time employment and part- time work, and the increase is in line with the rise in the overall unemployment rate for Australia, which jumped from 5.1 percent in February to 7.4 percent in June.

Government provides financial support

In March, the Australian government announced the JobKeeper payment program, which provides a fortnightly payment of $1,500 per eligible employee of companies that have a 30 percent fall in sales.

JobKeeper was initially in place until September, with the Federal Government recently announcing an extension until 28 March 2021. Companies must have their turnover reassessed every quarter in order to retain the help. Also, the amount paid per employee will decrease in the last quarter of the year, from $1,500 to $1,200 for full-time employed and $750 for part timers, then drop again in the first quarter of 2021 to $1,000 for full time employees and $650 to part time employees.

Australian organisations prioritise IT hires

As previously reported, a Hays survey in June revealed that 35 percent of Australian businesses are hiring and the top area of focus is IT, with companies looking particularly for infrastructure professionals; software developers and engineers; and cloud architects and engineers.

There is also a demand for data analysts among financial institutions, as the fourth area of priority listed by the survey is accountancy and finance.

SEEK data showed a 16 percent increase in job ads for ICT in June 2020 and a 23 percent rise in ad for science and technology. There has also been a significant increase (76 percent) in call centre and customer services ads, likely due to several Australian companies bringing their call centres back to Australia after the pandemic caused closures and restrictions abroad.

In a different report, SEEK noticed that between 22 June and 5 July there was an increase of 38 percent of applications per job ad for the ICT industry.

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