The latest ABS job figures reflect a cautious economy, with fears of a Greek economic collapse making businesses everywhere wary of spending more than they have to.
The headline from today's job figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is that the unemployment rate decreased slightly last month — by just 0.1 per cent — to 5.1 per cent. But that's been helped by an increase in part-time jobs. When we look at employment as a percentage of the population, the number in work has fallen from 62.5 per cent in January 2011 down to 61.9 per cent last month.
The crisis in Europe is making Australian employees more hesitant about expanding their commitments, whether it's on inventory, investment or recruitment. New IT projects, usually long term in nature, are likely to be shelved, as managers adopt a wait-and-see approach to the economy.
A stalled economy is not a great environment for those wanting a pay rise, and expectations are out of kilter with reality. Hudson recruitment's latest "Salary and Employment Insight Report" shows that two out of every five hiring managers face job seekers with over-budget salary demands.
This confident stance from employees reflects positive demand for ICT folk. Qantas, the banks, retail and the manufacturing sector might be slashing jobs, but there's still a demand for technology, at least for now. Research from Bluefin Resources shows that one third of employers are planning on increasing their IT headcount this quarter. Many are shifting jobs from contractors to permanent employees.
Despite the shortfall in supply, jobseekers still need to show the impact that they can have on the bottom line of a business. The economic terrain means that no one is prepared to spend more without seeing productivity gains, one of the black marks against the Australian business sector.
The Hudson report says that hiring managers are starting to realise the high cost of a "cheap hire". The recruiters they spoke to said that two out of five hires last year were "not good". Martin Retschko, National Practice Director at Hudson ICT, says: "candidates have to do more to demonstrate their abilities". Specifically, 19 per cent of recruiters want to see more years of experience, 29 per cent are looking at particular competencies and 19 per cent expect to see a superior team fit.
Those who are already delivering value to their business are in a good bargaining position for a pay rise — there's clearly a shortage of high-calibre candidates, and while there might be a reluctance to recruit, two thirds of companies in the Hudson survey said that they are worried about losing their top performers.
For the rest, unless you are supremely confident of your abilities, it's best to accept the pay you've got and blame the Europeans that you're not getting more. Remember the line about "what's a Greek urn?" Not much, these days. If you've got a job, this is a good time to keep your head down and get on with it.