While immigration drops, businesses are crying out for more staff
Peter Martin ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT
December 7, 2010
AUSTRALIA’S rate of immigration is tumbling already. An issue of bipartisan concern during the election campaign, the latest figures show net migration falling sharply with the number of permanent and long-term arrivals outnumbering departures by only 210,400 in the year to October, well down on the 324,700 a year before.
A rolling annual graph shows the rate continuing to plunge, as increasing numbers of Australians head overseas and fewer immigrants arrive.
In October, just 9370 overseas arrivals settled on Australian shores, the lowest total since March 2004.
Although it accords with the Prime Minister’s expressed desire during the campaign for ”a sustainable Australia, not a big Australia”, the slowdown has ominous portents for Australia’s economic boom.
”Businesses are shaking their heads,” said a Commonwealth Securities economist, Craig James. ”Job markets are tight, with not enough local talent to fill positions. But while companies are crying out for staff, migrant numbers are plunging.
”Over the past year, the annual number of migrants has plunged by a record 35 per cent, robbing the economy of momentum at an important time.
”It is in the interests of all Australians to have a balanced job market. The last thing anyone wants to see is the Reserve Bank keeping interest rates at higher levels than they should be because restrictions on migrant inflows are pushing up wages and prices.”
Separately released job advertisement data shows that ads were up 2.9 per cent in November as firms struggled to get staff. Newspaper job advertisements rebounded 0.9 per cent after slipping for two months.
The ANZ Bank says its count of advertisements points to a further jump in employment of 20,000 when the November figures are released today, pushing the unemployment rate down from 5.4 to 5.2 per cent.
But it warns the job figures will ”effectively cover hiring decisions made prior to the Reserve Bank’s latest interest rate increase”.
”Given anecdotal reports of more moderate consumer behaviour since, it is reasonable to expect some moderation in the rate of growth of labour demand in the months ahead,” said an economist, Ivan Colhoun.
The high dollar and cheap airfares pushed Australian short-term departures to a record high of 7 million trips in the year to October. During that month we left the country around 600,000 times, up 15 per cent on the previous October.
Tourist arrivals have continued to increase, despite the dollar climbing 5 per cent in the year to October. New Zealand and Britain were the biggest source of tourists followed by the US, China and Japan.