Employers want more from workers
OFFICIALLY, as far as the Reserve Bank is concerned, we are not in a recession.
However, if you look at national jobs figures, the market is moving as slowly as it did during the 1991 recession.
In the 12 months to July, 65,000 new jobs were created - of these, 29,000 were full time. To put that in perspective, the previous 12 months saw 256,000 full-time positions added.
It's a reflection of the doubts creeping into our economy, based in no small part on the continued economic troubles in Europe.
It might sound bleak, but like any statistics, it all comes down to context.
Over the same period, the labour force (the number of people aged 15 and over, either employed full or part time, looking for work or unemployed) itself increased by about 65,000.
Given then that the labour force grew by about the same amount of people as there were jobs created, the unemployment rate remained relatively steady at around 5%.
Greater jobs growth means greater choice for jobseekers, and the increased demand for a limited pool of talent means employers have to become more competitive in their recruitment practices.
The limited growth of the last 12 months swings the market back in favour of employers, who can expect to see more applications per vacancy, as the talent pool competes for a small number of opportunities.
For women at least, despite the soft growth, the outlook is particularly positive.
Growth in the labour market for women far outperformed that of men - the latter was all -but flat at 0.1% growth, while the rate of growth for women was 1.1%.
For every full-time job created for men, six have been added for women.
Given that the participation rate for both men and women has remained relatively constant in the last year (˜72% and ˜59% respectively), that translates to a wider range of job options for women - perhaps surprisingly even in the mining sector, where the employment growth rate is higher for women than men.
Softness in the retail sector, a traditional employer of teenagers and youth, is making the job hunt more difficult for the under-20s.
Employers are expecting more from their staff, which makes the going tough for teenagers who haven't yet had the opportunity to develop their skills and build work experience.
In broad terms, taking a state-by-state view, the mining states continue to drive jobs growth, with Queensland and Western Australia adding almost 50,000 full-time jobs this year, offset by losses in Victoria and South Australia as manufacturing and construction continue to struggle.