Jobs and growth: large employers faring better than SMEs

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SMEs, often regarded as the “engine room of the economy,” have maintained encouraging jobs and growth outlooks heading into the second quarter, according to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey.

The survey shows that the Net Employment Outlook (NEO) for small businesses is +8 per cent, up one percentage point since last quarter, and is also +8 per cent for medium businesses, following a drop of one percentage point since Q1.

Jamie Butterworth, General Manager, Manpower Australia, said that there are some clear growth industries and states heading into Q2 and this is having an impact on SMEs more broadly.

“While large businesses reported a strong NEO of +23 per cent – up 12 percentage points year-over-year – growth has not been as solid for SMEs, with slight annual increases of two and three percentage points respectively. That being said, the outlook is fair, and there are pockets of growth in specific industries which will likely have a knock-on effect for SMEs operating in these industries,” Butterworth said.

In particular, Butterworth pointed to the Services sector, reporting the strongest outlook of all sectors surveyed, at +15 per cent, followed by the Transportation & Utilities and Mining and Construction sectors which recorded NEOs of +12 per cent. At the same time, the Wholesale trade and retail trade sector recorded the lowest NEO, at +5 per cent.

“SMEs across the board are focused on two key hiring considerations – cost reduction and bolstering IT capabilities. Digital transformation is also a key priority for businesses of every size, driving a renewed focus on sourcing the right IT talent in what remains a skills-short market.”

“The main concern we’re hearing is not that businesses can’t find employees but that they are struggling to find candidates with the right skills. SMEs aren’t alone here – the majority of businesses are concerned about whether their workforce has the skills required to keep pace and adapt to changes being driven by digital advancement,” said Butterworth.

Nationally, the ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook survey shows that while 15 per cent of the interviewed employers intend to increase their headcount in Q2, the majority (78 per cent) are planning no changes in the coming quarter.

Employers in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory report the strongest regional Outlooks at +14 per cent. In New South Wales, hiring prospects strengthened by three and five percentage points quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year, respectively. Employers in the Australian Capital Territory reported an increase of four percentage points when compared with the previous quarter and an improvement of five percentage points year-over-year.

Inside Small Business