Employment in Australia’s hard-pressed mining sector fell by almost a fifth in the past year as tumbling commodity prices ate into profits, leaving it at its lowest ebb since mid-2011. Yet twice as many new jobs have been created in professional, scientific and technical services – a catch-all that includes everything from architects to engineers to lawyers – courtesy of a boom in housing construction.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show mining companies shed 44,000 workers in the year to February, taking the total in the sector to 220,400. That shrinkage is set to continue as massive liquefied natural gas projects are completed over the next few years. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has estimated it takes 20 times more workers to build an LNG plant than are needed to operate it.
While mining is a small employer overall, accounting for just 1.8 percent of the country’s workers, the loss of those very well-paid jobs was a blow to household spending. Just as well then that a major revival in home building has helped fill the gap, keeping jobs in construction steady overall even as mining projects wound down.