Rock kickers laid off in WA’s mining downturn are yet to see the benefits of last year’s price recovery in gold and iron ore, according to the Australian Institute of Geoscientists.
The AIG’s quarterly employment survey, to be released this week, shows job prospects for geoscientists declined in the December quarter after six months of growth.
Some 33.9 per cent of “geos” who responded said they were either unemployed or underemployed, up from 32.7 per cent in the March quarter.
In WA, 33.7 per cent of respondents said they were unable to secure full-time work as of December 31, up from 30.9 per cent at September 30, with 18.2 per cent underemployed and 15.5 per cent unable to secure geo work of any description.
AIG president Andrew Waltho said the reported resources recovery was fragile, with work for geoscientists failing to keep pace with an improved employment outlook for mining engineers and tradespeople.
“Hopefully the survey results reflect a seasonal pause in the gradual recovery of employment opportunities for geoscientists,” he said. “But, equally, the results may show that the recovery being talked about in the Australian resources sector remains fragile.”
Mr Waltho said exploration activity was still a long way behind where it was in 2011, when just 5 per cent of geos were considered unemployed or underemployed and a quarter of WA was blanketed by tenements.
“The Fraser Institute annual survey of mining companies for 2016 saw WA and Queensland featuring in the top 10 most attractive jurisdictions for exploration investment globally,” he said.
“But this isn’t being reflected in actual investment needed to create jobs and sustain one of the most important sectors of the Australian economy.”
The rest of the mining economy seems to have put the worst of the recession behind it.
Human Resources firm DFP Recruitment’s February survey showed demand for work in metal ore mining jumped 16.6 per cent across the month, up to 89 per cent of benchmark levels in November 2013.
But there are green shoots for geologists in the DFP report as well, saying demand for rock kickers had risen 29.2 per cent in the past three months despite a dip in December.
Job vacancies in WA’s mining industry climbed by 4.2 per cent in February, with DFP’s mining and resources job index showing employment opportunities were about 71 per cent of what they were 3½ years ago.