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Small businesses record the highest hiring intention for 2024

Australian employers anticipate a confident, albeit cautious start to 2024, with a net +29% expected to increase headcount during Q1, according to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey report released today.

Of the 1,020 Australian employers surveyed, 44% reported an intention to increase their headcount during the coming quarter, 14% anticipated a decrease while 38% expect no changes to their headcount numbers. The resulting Net Employment Outlook (NEO) is +29% after seasonal adjustments.

This remains a historically high hiring intention, despite a 3 percentage point decrease from the last quarter and a 4 percentage point decrease since the same quarter last year.

The latest result ranks Australia in the top half of the 42 countries surveyed, 3 percentage points above the global average (+26%).

“It makes sense that employers would enter the new year with a degree of caution, following a challenging 12 month period, which was dominated by market changes, talent shortages and shifting commercial priorities,” said ManpowerGroup Australia Managing Director Penny O’Reilly.


“Australian employers absorbed the challenges of 2023 remarkably well. Given ongoing inflation and wage pressures together with a general slowing of the market on the back of consecutive interest rate rises, we would expect to see employers take a more considered approach to their hiring in Q1.”

Hiring intentions decreased in 6 of 8 sectors:

  • While hiring intentions across all Australian sectors remain historically high, 6 of the 8 sectors covered in the report recorded a decline in hiring intentions in Q1 2024, compared to Q4 2023.
  • Transport, Logistics & Automotive, Financials & Real Estate, and Industrials & Materials all recorded a 9 percentage point decline in hiring intention in Q1 2024 compared to Q4 2023.
  • Consumer Goods & Services, Energy & Utilities and Healthcare & Life Sciences recorded quarter on quarter declines of 8 percentage points, 6 percentage points, and 2 percentage points, respectively.

Communication Services is Australia’s most competitive sector:

  • The Australian Communications Services sector recorded a NEO of +45%. An increase of 19 percentage points compared to the previous quarter and 16 percentage points compared to the same quarter in 2023.
  • The hiring intention of Australia’s Communication Services sector sits 14 percentage points higher than the sector’s global average (+31%).

Hiring intention in Australia’s Information Technology sector remains steady:

  • The Australian Information Technology sector recorded a NEO of +29%. This result remains unchanged compared to last quarter.
  • This result reflects a continued stabilisation of hiring in the Australia Information Technology sector as large technology employers continue to evaluate priority projects in the new year.

Small organisations are the most optimistic:

  • Small organisations (10-49 employers) recorded the highest hiring intention with a NEO of +38%.
  • This is a 6 percentage point increase compared to last quarter and a 7 percentage point increase on the previous year.

“We expect the challenges experienced by Australian employers during 2023 will continue, at least through the first half of 2024. The fact that Q1 hiring intentions remain historically high suggests leaders are continuing to remain relatively confident and navigate through this period balancing a sense of positivity with a degree of caution,” Ms O’Reilly said.


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