By Patrick Avenell

A survey released by recruitment firm Manpower Employment shows that employment prospects in the retail and wholesale sectors at their lowest levels of confidence since 2006.

The survey, which was part of a larger survey of 2405 Australian employers, showed that “the majority of employers in this sector are continuing to hold the line on their staff levels for the next quarter”, according to the accompanying release.

Furthermore, “the levels of demand are also considerably lower than the past 24 months, and this industry is now facing levels not seen since late 2006”.

“Whilst we have seen a softening in the intention to hire new staff, driven by a fall in
consumer spending, it may not be a signal for a slowdown in net growth,” said Manpower ANZ general manager, marketing and communications, Stephen Hinch.

“This is because this industry which is quite cyclical may well be propped up by the record high levels of vacancies, and strong company profits showing 7.8 percent in the retail sector, despite the slowdown in consumer spending (sic).

“Profit growth normally converts to a more positive hiring environment as the real cost of labour is driven down. This will mean that under the current economic conditions, we will see jobs demand in this industry back around 21 per cent by June-July 2009,” said Hinch.

According to this survey, hiring intentions in the retail and wholesale for the last quarter of 2008 has a net employment outlook of +15 per cent. This means that only 15 per cent of companies in this sector will be offering employment between October and December 2008.