The latest ABS data on jobs and wages is a mixed bag for the construction industry. 

Master Builders Australia's Senior Industry Policy Adviser sheds some light on how the 'COVID crisis' is impacting our industry. 

Wages in the building and construction industry continue to decline and are now 8.2 per cent lower than at 14 March 2020. As the economy begins to reopen, wages in other industry sectors are improving. The average loss in wages across all industries is now less than the loss in construction at 6.3 per cent.  

Job losses, on the other hand, are lower in building and construction than in other industries at 5.3 per cent, compared with the average of 6.4 per cent across all industries. 

Jobs and wages across the states and territories

Across the states and territories results are also mixed. The Australian Capital Territory is the only jurisdiction where construction in faring better than average for both jobs and wages. The construction industry in New South Wales and the Northern Territory is experiencing higher job losses and wage reductions than the average of across all industry sectors.  

In the last four weeks, construction jobs and wages in Tasmania have bounced back, with a 3.0 per cent increase in jobs and a 9.3 per cent recovery in wages. Western Australia was the only other jurisdiction to seen improvement in both jobs (up 0.5%) and wages (up 1.2%) between 16 May and 13 June 2020. During this period New South Wales saw the steepest decline in both jobs (-2.5%) and wages (-6.7%).

Jobs and wages across the age groups

Since 14 March 2020 jobs have declined in all age groups in both construction and across all industries. In the construction industry, 6.5 per cent of workers over 70 years have lost their job while only 2.4 per cent of workers under 20 years have lost theirs. This contrasts with the average across all industries, where 15.2 per cent of workers under 20 years have lost their job.

Workers aged under 20 years are the only age cohort to experience growth in wages since 14 March 2020, up 6.6 per cent in construction and 8.1 per cent across all industries. As previously stipulated, this is likely a reflection that many workers aged under 20 years earnt less than the $750/week JobKeeper payment. 

This is the first release of the jobs and wages data in which wage declines in construction are more severe than the average across all industries. In the previous release, the wage decline was 7.8 per cent in the construction industry and 8.3 per cent across all industries. With restrictions now easing and more industries reopening the average decline in wages has moderated to 6.3 per cent. However, wages have continued to decline in construction and now sit at 8.2 per cent lower than on 14 March 2020 and construction wages are lower across all age cohorts than the average. 

Jobs and wages across industries

The construction industry is middle of the road when it comes to declines in jobs and wages in comparison to other industries. 

With an 8.2 per cent decline in wages since 14 March 2020, the construction industry ranks 9th out of 19 industries. Eight industries have experienced larger declines in wages, including: accommodation and food services (-21.4%), arts and recreation services (-14.8%), and property services (-12.1%). Eight industries have experienced declines in wages, but to a lesser extent than construction, and two industries have seen growth in wages – health care and social assistance (+0.8%) and education and training (+2.3%).

 It is a similar story for jobs, with seven industries have experienced a greater percentage loss in jobs and nine experiencing losses, but to a lesser extent than construction, and two industries having jobs growth. 

Jennifer Lawrence

Senior Adviser - Industry Policy

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