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As employers (and govts) flee papers, how do we measure job ads?

Employers get more response and cheaper buys from using online job ad sites, and now government is making the switch too. Time to change how we measure them.

With the federal government switching most of its job ads from newspapers to the internet, how long will it be before the ANZ Bank is forced to recast its monthly job advertisement survey in newspapers and the internet?

Already we have seen a very visible impact of the switch with The Australian Financial Review last Friday and Saturday showing scant advertising, especially from the federal government (none in the weekend edition) and The Australian showing a sharp fall as well. Both are national papers and were used by the federal government in its trawl to fill senior public servant position via job ads.

Newspaper job ads have been falling for years because of the secular change among employers who get more response and cheaper buys from using online job ads sites. But for senior corporate and especially government roles, papers were still being used, especially the two national dailies and broadsheets like The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. But now the federal government has moved most of its run of the mill job ads to the online world, the number of job ads in the big newspapers will fall.

Already the ANZ job advertisement series shows the slide in newspaper ads (the series does not cover local and suburban papers, such as the weekly free papers owned by News Ltd and other publishers). In 2007-08, just as the GFC was starting, newspapers (the big city dailies and weeklies) carried a total of 19,283 job ads a month. By 210-11 that had fallen to 9203 and by the end of the 2012 financial year last June, the number was down to 6612 (on an original and not seasonally adjusted basis). That has risen to 7,056 in September, indicating a steadying (June was actually the lowest month recorded and was close to 70% lower than the peak in 2007-08). The ANZ said yesterday:

The number of job advertisements on the internet and in newspapers fell 2.8% in September, following a decline of 2.4% in August. This was the sixth consecutive monthly decline. Job advertisements are now 10.8% below levels seen a year ago. In trend terms, job advertisements declined 1.4% m/m in September. “

And while the unadjusted figure rose in September, the seasonally adjusted number of job advertisements in newspapers fell 3.6% in the month, according to the latest ANZ survey, with the weakness extending “across most states”. But you can argue that newspaper job advertising is no longer a predictor of employment. Newspaper job ads accounted for around 4% of total job ads. That’s nowhere near enough to project national trends.

Large falls were recorded in NSW, Western Australia and Queensland. Falls in the latter two states are consistent with anecdotal evidence of some recent delays and cancellations of a number of mining projects as well as significant public sector job cuts in Queensland. Newspaper job advertising in Queensland has fallen nearly 20% since May. Tasmania, Victoria and the Northern Territory each recorded increases in newspaper job advertisements, although this followed sharp declines in each state in August. The trend for newspaper job advertising is now in decline in all states and territories.”

The ANZ said the number of internet job advertisements fell 2.7% last month after a 2.3% fall in August to be 10.1% lower than September 2011. That’s a more accurate guide simply because there are more jobs advertised each month, 25 times more than in newspapers.

The switch in federal government advertising will see the fall in newspaper job ads accelerate from this month onwards, while the fall in internet job ads should be smaller or a small rise recorded. In reality the ANZ should have to recast its survey to accommodate this significant change. The ANZ monthly reports has lots of detail about newspaper job ads and accompanying graphs.

But there’s little information on internet ads, except the figures and a a couple of graphs. The best thing to do might be to switch the focus from newspapers to internet in the reporting of the monthly movements.

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