Public sector job vacancies in the ACT are at their lowest level since May 1998. Photo: Ashley Gilbertson
Government job vacancies in Canberra have crashed to their lowest level in almost 15 years, the Bureau of Statistics says.
The bureau's report, released yesterday, shows there were about 900 public sector positions available in the ACT in mid-August.
It was the first time the number of government employment opportunities fell below 1000 since May 1998, when the Howard government was in the midst of retrenching tens of thousands of staff.
The ACT's public sector job vacancies have trended downwards since May last year, when they hit a peak of 1900.
The bureau's quarterly survey covers vacancies in both the federal and ACT governments.
The results follow the federal government's decision this week to strip an extra $550 million from the bureaucracy over four years.
Finance Minister Penny Wong said the savings would "not come from targeting jobs", saying agencies would instead reduce spending on air travel, consultants, printing and advertising.
However, many government workplaces are already shedding staff this year to meet the so-called "efficiency dividend", and are likely to need to cut jobs to cope with the latest economy drive.
The Community and Public Sector Union's ACT director, Vince McDevitt, said the ABS data reflected the "underlying apprehension" felt by most Canberrans.
"We have a federal election next year, and the Liberals are saying they're going to cut $50 billion to $70 billion in government spending.
"Even the Chamber of Commerce has said this would devastate the Canberra cenomy and would, in all likelihood, put us in recession like [John] did in 1996."
Mr McDevitt said more of his members were likely to consider leaving Canberra.
"They hold home mortages, they pay school fees, and the No 1 thing on their minds is their livelihood.
"They'll be investigating plan B, and no doubt some will be choosing to move on, prior to the election, to somewhere outside the ACT."
Canberra Business Council chief executive Chris Faulks said the job results were unsurprising given the federal government's efforts to return the budget to surplus.
"They're not necessarily sacking people, but they're obviously not recruiting and they're not replacing staff," she said.
"They're also cutting back on the procurement of goods and services from the private sector, which is a great concern for Canberra."
The bureau's survey said the number of private sector job vacancies in the ACT rose from 3600 to 3800 between May and August this year.
However, Ms Faulks said it was likely Canberra businesses would suffer the repercussions of the bureaucracy's spending cuts in coming quarters.
"To take $550 million effectively out of goods and services will deeply affect industries in Canberra that provide those services – it will just take a little while to filter through."
Nationally, the number of job vacancies rose by 4.2 per cent, from 172,100 in May to 179,300 recorded in August.
All of the employment growth was in the private sector; public sector vacancies fell 12.9 per cent Australia-wide.