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A Dynamic Labour Market Index




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James Packer
EK Limited
Chairman, SE

As Australia continues to achieve high economic growth, the prospect of ‘full employment’
and ‘skills shortages’ have become major considerations for policymakers and a daily
reality for employers.

Set against a background of significant demographic change, with an ageing workforce

and declining participation rates, the balance between the demand and supply of labour
in Australia has become a delicate one.

While there is a wealth of regular data available regarding the demand for labour (primarily
those based on job advertisements or vacancy data), there are few sources of reliable data
on the supply side of the market, which is highly fragmented and structurally unsuited to
large scale data capture, collation and analysis.

Until the Internet was first used to post job advertisements and receive job applications,
there was no efficient, scalable and timely way to gather supply-side information on the
labour market. The growing prominence of the Internet as a primary channel for posting
and applying to job advertisements, and SEEK’s dominant market share of these ads, has
now placed SEEK in a unique position to gauge the ebb and flow of the labour market.

In any given month, over 150,000 job advertisements are posted on the SEEK website.
These job advertisements, posted by advertisers ranging from recruitment agencies
to government departments to SMEs, cover the broad spectrum of occupations, in all
industries right across Australia.

Similarly, on any given month, over 2 million people access the SEEK website, searching
and browsing through the available job ads in the hope of finding the right job. With
sophisticated search functionality that matches available jobs with jobseekers, it has never
been easier or more convenient to find the right job. Hence the SEEK website generates
over 2 million job applications per month.

While SEEK does not of course represent all job advertisements or vacancies in Australia,
it certainly represents a substantial majority, accounting for about 60% of all job ads (print
and online), with much of this market share obtained in just the last four years. By any
empirical scale, SEEK’s ads represent a significant and valid sample of the Australian
labour market.

This sample, together with the ease of data collection, has allowed SEEK to construct the
first supply-side labour market survey. A survey that is more dynamic and more detailed
than indices based on traditional print employment classifieds.

Of most relevance to that portion of the employment advertising market in which Internet
technology has taken hold, the SEEK EI serves to complement existing and traditional
measures such as the ANZ Job Ad series and ABS statistics.

Of particular use to employers and recruiters more familiar with the Internet medium, the
SEEK EI is also intended for wide use by policymakers and employers. By demonstrating
underlying trends in labour market dynamics, the SEEK EI can assist the development of
workforce productivity and labour market efficiency strategies.

The SEEK Employment Index will initially cover national and state markets, but over time
will evolve to deliver a more frequent and granular picture of the Australian labour market.


OVER 150,000

One of the advantages of operating in an online environment is the ability to harness and
compile a large volume of data. Tapping into its rich database of employment advertising
activity, the SEEK Employment Index uncovers a number of useful insights into the
Australian labour market.

Each month the SEEK database records the total number of new job advertisements placed
on the SEEK website. It also records where the advertisements have been placed (industry,
occupation and location) and how many times they have been re-posted in the same
month. Unlike indices which rely on a single point-in-time count or average number of job
advertisements, the SEEK database records the total number of new job advertisements
and, thus provides a more timely accurate picture of job advertisement volumes and trends.

Similarly, the SEEK database also records the number of new applications received for
each job advertisement. The volume of applications is indicative of the supply of jobseekers
in that specific field. While not all applicants are suitably qualified, it is an indicator of
potential labour supply.

The SEEK Employment Index calculates the job advertisements per application ratio in
three steps. First, job advertisement volumes and corresponding application volumes are
aggregated. Second, duplicate advertisements and ‘linked-out’ advertisements (ads that
require jobseekers to apply directly via a third-party website) are deducted from the total
count of new job advertisements. Third, the ratio is then calculated by dividing the seasonally
adjusted series of net job advertisements by the seasonally adjusted series of applications.

Formula = Total new Ads – Duplicate Ads – Linked Out Ads

Total Applications Received

(see section 5 for definitions)

This ratio can be calculated across every job industry, occupation and location. As such it
can be cross-referenced to provide useful insights at the industry-level, occupation-level
and state-level.

The data are seasonally adjusted, and presented in the form of an Index. The indexation
point at which the Index is based on the average of all months in 2002-2004=100 but does
not equate to “equilibrium” in labour market.

03.Overview of the
SEEK Employment
Each monthly release of data by SEEK will include three key indicators:

– The SEEK Employment Index, a dynamic snapshot of the labour market.

– CandidateDemand, as measured by new job advertisements posted on the SEEK
website; and

When considered together and along side other employment indicators these indicators
provide useful insights into the dynamics of the Australian labour market.

The SEEK Employment Index

CHART 1: The SEEK Employment Index, seasonally adjusted, Av 2002-04 = 100

130.00 Tightening Labour Market Short







Softening Labour Market Rich



Ju 2
Au 02

Oc 2
De 02

Fe 2

Ju 3
Au 03

Oc 3
De 3

Fe 3

Ju 4
Au 04

Oc 4
De 04

Fe 4

Ap 2


Ap 4

Ap 5















The SEEK Employment Index is a numerical representation of the relative balance between
the supply and demand for labour over time.

When the Index increases, it demonstrates a ‘tightening’ employment market; where

advertisers find it harder to fill roles. This is a favourable market for jobseekers, as job
opportunities are greater and competition between applicants is lessened.

Inversely, as the Index falls, it demonstrates a ‘softening’ employment market; where

advertisers find it easier to fill roles. In this instance, jobseekers need to compete for the
available jobs.

The Indexation point has been selected as the average over the period 2002 to 2004.
This should not be used as an indicator of labour market equilibrium. A score above 100
suggests a higher than average tightness in the employment market.

Candidate Demand - New Job Advertisements Posted
CHART 2: SEEK New Job Ads Posted, seasonally adjusted, index
(October 2001=100)

2 40

2 20

2 00

1 80

1 60

1 40

1 20

1 00






























Chart 2 illustrates the trend in the monthly total volume of new job advertisements being
posted to the SEEK website. A rise signifies increasing demand for labour.

As Chart 2 demonstrates, the number of new job ads has more than doubled since
October 2001.

Unlike other job volume data already available, this series measures the total number of
new job advertisements in the month it is not just a point in time stock count. It also takes
into account of duplication of advertisements on the SEEK website.

04.Applications for Use
The SEEK EI has been specifically created to provide jobseekers, employers, recruiters
and policymakers with an ongoing source of rich labour market data, addressing the
following issues:

– Jobseeker supply (relevant also to identifying skills shortages).

– Industry and regional employment growth.

It is SEEK’s hope that the index will become a useful research, forecasting and planning
tool for all labour market participants, from the school leaver considering their vocational
training options, to the HR manager at a mining site in Kalgoorlie, to the policy analyst
assessing the skilled migration quotas.

For the average jobseeker, be they actively looking for a new job or just considering their
options, the SEEK EI presents a useful tool to understand the level of demand for people
with their skills. It also shows the level of competition they will face with other candidates
vying for the same position. Knowing the employment hot spots will enable jobseekers to
identify their own lucrative employment opportunity or future career path.

SEEK is often asked to provide advertisers with industry trend data in order to benchmark
performance against others in the category. We often hear: “Is it just my company, or is
everyone finding it tough to find candidates?”. The SEEK EI will become a useful tool for
identifying general market trends, comparing individual performance, and better managing
candidate flow.

Employers will also benefit from greater transparency regarding the supply of labour,
particularly in specific skill areas, as the SEEK EI provides a useful tool for resource
planning and for workforce training and development.

For example, employers with a better understanding of changes in the labour market
will be better positioned to develop proactive strategies to counter these effects. These
strategies might include attraction and retention campaigns or exploring alternative talent
pools where a candidate shortage has been identified.

The SEEK EI also has implications for policy making across national, state and local
governments, in areas such as education, vocational training, workforce participation,
immigration, industry development and regional planning.

Advertiser – an individual or organisation who has placed an advertisement on the SEEK
website. SEEK advertisers consist mainly of recruitment agencies (advertising on behalf of an
employing client), direct employers (ranging from large corporates to SMEs) and government
departments. SEEK charges advertisers to post an advertisement to the website.

Application – a response made to a job advertisement via the SEEK website through the
‘Apply Now’ function, which sends responses directly to the advertiser. Most advertisements
require a resume to be included with any application.

Duplicate Job Advertisement – a job advertisement consisting of the same title and content
as another advertisement posted to the SEEK website in the same month. This includes
advertisements posted to different classifications (industry, occupation and location).

Index – a numerical scale used to compare variables with one another or with some
reference number (indexation point). It illustrates relative changes in data over time.

Industry – defined as the SEEK industry classification in which the job advertisement was
first placed, eg. Accounting. SEEK industry classifications have been mapped to the ANZSIC
industry codes.

Job Advertisement – a posting made to the SEEK website advertising a specific position of
employment that is available to be filled.

Jobseeker – an individual who visits the SEEK website with the view to searching for a job
opportunity. SEEK does not charge jobseekers to apply for jobs.

Labour market demand – a measure of the level and composition of employment that
employers wish to engage at a given point in time; given current wage rates, output levels
and other relevant factors.

Labour market supply – a measure of the number of people seeking new employment
– including those working or available for work. It reflects the availability and willingness of
actual and potential employees to supply labour of a particular structure and composition,
given wage rates and other working conditions.

Linked-Out Job Advertisement – a job advertisement that requires applications to be

lodged via a third-party website. The SEEK database does not record application volumes
for linked-out advertisements.

Location – defined as the SEEK location classification in which the job advertisement was
first placed, eg. Brisbane. Locations are broken down into Metro and Non-Metro.

Occupation – defined as the SEEK occupation classification in which the job advertisement
was first placed, eg. Payroll. There are over 300 SEEK occupational categories.


SEEK Limited (ASX code: SEK) was formed in November 1997 to utilise the potential that
Internet technology held for both recruiters and job seekers within the employment market.
seek.com.au was launched in March 1998 and seek.co.nz in 1999.

seek.com.au is Australia’s leading employment website, attracting over 1.4 million unique
visitors to the site each month. seek.co.nz is also the market leader in New Zealand, with over
165,000 unique visitors.

SEEK has created several sub-sites to make job browsing and matching simpler. These
subsites include SEEK Executive, SEEK IT, SEEK UK, SEEK Healthcare and SEEK Volunteer.
The SEEK websites include the ability to search for jobs in specific industries including
accounting, engineering, government & defence and education & training. They also have a
dedicated industry page where graduate and entry level jobs are posted. SEEK is the exclusive
careers content provider for Australia's leading Internet portal, ninemsn.

SEEK also has strategic partnerships with key Internet brands including Optus and Primus/
AOL. These partnerships and other exclusive online distribution alliances mean that SEEK’s
jobs and search technology appear on over 30 partner sites across the web.

SEEK also operates an online training and development business in Australia and New
Zealand (www.seeklearning.com.au) and a niche operation in the UK targeting Australian and
New Zealand jobseekers (www.seek.co.uk).

SEEK takes recruitment and employment practices seriously. In both 2003 and 2004 the
company received a special commendation award in the Best Employers to Work for in
Australia survey conducted by Hewitt Associates.

Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University

The Centre is a University Centre within the Faculty of Business and Law at Victoria
University, Melbourne, focusing on the processes of economic, technological and social
change in the contemporary world. It seeks to understand the causes and consequences of
these processes, and the appropriate policy responses for different situations. The Centre
has three main activities: research on long-term economic, social and technological issues;
commercial activities, including publications, conferences and data analysis activities; and
postgraduate teaching.

These are carried out in six areas of research:

– governance and regional economies

– growth, trade and development
– inequality and work
– information technologies and the information economy
– sustainable development and the environment
– technology, innovation and industrial change, with special reference to pharmaceuticals,
biotechnology and nanotechnology.

The Centre’s work with SEEK brings together several areas of the Centre’s research
interests and expertise, particularly in relation to the implications of information technology
and structural change, to the analysis of large data base and to macroeconomic and labour
market issues.

Further information on the Centre’s activities can be found at www.cfses.com or through

the website of the Faculty of Business and Law, www.businessandlaw.vu.edu.au.

Media Inquiries – Matt Sallmann, SEEK, Ph. 03 8517 4198

Data Requests/
Permissions – Ronnie Fink, SEEK, Ph. 03 8517 4193

Inquiries – Dr George Messinis, Victoria University, Ph: 03 9919 1340

08. Appendix - The
Economic Framework
of the SEEK Indicators
The following analysis is provided by the Centre for Strategic Economic Studies at
Victoria University.

Job advertisement and vacancies data have been widely used in economic analysis and
interpretation in Australia for many years – in official circles as well as in professional
commentary and media discussion. This continues to be the case, even though they have
faced some challenges in terms of interpreting changing conditions in the Australian
labour market in recent years.

This appendix sets out briefly the economic framework in which the SEEK indicators have
been developed, and explains how they can strengthen our ability to interpret trends and
changes in the labour market.


The main existing indicators are the ANZ jobs ads series and the Australian Bureau of
Statistics (ABS) survey of job vacancies. The ANZ index based on newspaper ads has
been an important data source for many years, and over time has tracked the job cycle
very well. In the past five years, however, as job placement has shifted to the Internet,
the index based on newspaper ads has become increasingly unrepresentative of overall
trends. In response to these changes ANZ has created a total jobs ads series, by obtaining
data on Internet jobs ads from online job search companies to add to the existing data on
newspaper ads. This enhanced ANZ series is an important indicator, even though complex
issues of coverage and potential duplication of ads remain.

The ABS data on job vacancies is collected quarterly through a survey of a sample of
businesses on the ABS business register. The series provides an estimate of the number
of vacancies on which some recruitment action has been undertaken and which remain
unfilled at a given time each quarter.

Important as they are, there is a number of limitations in these existing indicators – for
example, they address only the demand side of the labour market and they measure
only the stock of ads at a point of time, hence throwing no light on the flow dynamics of
employment creation.

Perhaps as a result of these limitations, the record of the existing indicators in predicting
or interpreting trends in recent years has been mixed, as is evident from Chart 3. For
example, between June 2001 and June 2003 the number of ads according to the expanded
ANZ ads series fell by 6.7% (seasonally adjusted) although total Australian employment
rose by 356,000 or 3.9% over the period, and unemployment fell significantly.

The SEEK indicators have been created to complement existing indicators by addressing
these limitations in three important respects:

– by providing separate measures of trends in both the supply of and the demand for
labour, and hence of the changing balance between the two;
– by providing flow indicators over a period (of new ads posted and of applications in
response to those ads in a given month) to complement current indicators of the stock
of ads or vacancies unfilled at a point in time; and
– by eliminating problems of duplication and inconsistency, through the use of a single
coherent data source covering a high proportion of the job ad market.


4.0 160
Employment Growth (LHS) Total Job Ads (ANZ) (RHS)

3.5 150

% change from year earlier






0.5 80

0.0 70






M 4


































(source:ABS, ANZ Job Ad Series)


Aggregates such as employment and unemployment reflect complex processes within

the economy of matching the demand for and the supply of labour in many different
dimensions, and the observed data for these variables is the result of the net outcome
of these processes.

The demand for labour is the level and composition of employment that employers wish
to engage at a given point in time, given current wage rates, output levels and other
relevant factors.

The supply of labour reflects the availability and willingness of actual and potential employees
to supply labour of a particular structure and composition, given wage rates and other working
conditions. Both these are theoretical concepts, in that neither is directly observed, and the
observed outcomes reflect the process of matching supply and demand. To some degree, and
under appropriate conditions, demand also creates its own supply, in the sense that strong
demand for labour induces persons not currently in the labour force to seek employment.

It may be that there is insufficient supply to meet demand, or vice versa, and it may prove
difficult to match the characteristics of the available supply to the specifications of the jobs
available. The speed at which adjustment takes place between supply and demand is also a
critical issue, and this will vary over time with labour market conditions, and from industry
to industry.

Thus the existing indicators, which relate only to the demand for labour, tell only one part
of the story, and can give a misleading or incomplete interpretation of labour market trends
in certain circumstances. This fact provides strong motivation to develop, from the SEEK
data resources, a supply side indicator (applications) and an indicator of the balance of
demand and supply (applications per ad).

Stocks and flows in the labour market

Most of the discussion of the labour market relates to stock variables, such as the number
of persons in employment or unemployment at a particular point in time, or changes
in those stocks between two points in time. But it is well known that small changes in
these stock variables are the net result of large-scale flows between different labour
force states. For example, the ABS data on gross flows suggest that in an average year
in Australia there are about 3.5 million gross hiring episodes – occasions on which an
individual enters employment from either being unemployed or not in the labour force
– but increases in the level of employment are of the order of 200,000 persons per annum
(ABS Cat. no. 6291.0.55.011).

Thus a given change in employment (or in unemployment) is the net result of a much
larger flow of engagements and separations (or entries into and exits from unemployment).
The evidence from the international analysis of labour market flows (Hall 2004) suggests
that the key source of variability in flows over the cycle is in the rate of entry to employment
rather than in the rate of separations from employment.

For example, rising unemployment tends to be associated with a slowing rate of engagement
of new employees rather than with an increase in the separation rate. This finding focuses
attention on factors affecting the engagement rate, and hence potentially on vacancies and
job advertisement measures, as a key to understanding labour market change.

Recent analyses of gross flows in the Australian labour market (e.g. Dixon et al. 2002, 2003,
2004) do not appear to support Hall’s specific finding of the relative stability of separations
from employment over the cycle, but again reinforce both the scale of, and the variability of,
gross flows into employment over the cycle.

It is important to note that these gross flows between labour market states do not include
employment flows within states, such as employment. Thus changes of jobs by persons
who are employed – sometimes called churning or worker reallocation in the literature (e.g.
Leeves 2000) – are not covered by the gross flow data. While there is very little information
about the scale and variability of churning, the indications are that it could be important in
interpreting labour market data.

Stocks and flows in vacancy and job ad measures

The flow perspective also highlights some issues about the nature of vacancy and job ad
measures. The ABS vacancy series is an estimate, based on a sample survey, of the stock
of jobs available to be filled at a given time.

The internet job ads series can be either stocks or flows: full counts of the number of new
job ads posted on job search websites in a given period, or the total stock of job ads on the
sites at a particular point in time.

The methodology for the ABS vacancy series suggests that it should be reasonably reliable
as a count of the stock of jobs available to be filled at the time at which the survey is
taken. In the survey period in November 2004, for example, there were 137,000 vacancies
identified in the survey period, a 7.4% increase (before seasonal adjustment) on the number
in August 2004. But we have no information on how long these vacancies have been open,
and how quickly they are filled.

The average number of vacancies recorded by the ABS for the four quarterly observations
for 2004 was 123,300, and the total number of employment engagements for the year was
about 3.425 million.

This implies that, if all engagements involved a filling of a vacancy as defined by the ABS,
on average vacancies are filled within about two weeks. But we have no direct information
on the rate at which vacancies are filled, and variations in this rate would have a major
effect on what a given level of vacancies means for the demand for labour.

Similar issues, and others, apply to the ads data. The existing ANZ internet plus newspaper
ads series refers to the total weekly average number of ads open in a given month. But, at
least to date, we have no information on whether these are new or old (that is, previously
posted) jobs, and on how quickly they are filled. As with vacancies, potential variations in
duration rates could greatly affect what a given stock of ads means. Thus it is important to
approach job ads and vacancy series in the context of the massive flows that underlie changes
in the major labour market stock aggregates, such as employment and unemployment.

One fact this perspective highlights is the importance of the rate at which vacancies
are filled, or the duration of ads and vacancies, as critical variables in relation to the
interpretation of this data. We also need to be clear on whether the job ads series
themselves measure stocks or flows of ads, and how these measures relate to the major
economic stocks and flows.

The economic interpretation of vacancies and job ads

In seeking to interpret the economic significance of a given level of vacancies and job ads,
or of changes in that level, the twin frameworks of gross flows and of supply, demand and
matching must be kept in mind. These frameworks lead us to concentrate on several key
concepts in seeking to interpret this significance:

– demand: the level and characteristics of the demand for labour;

– supply: the level and characteristics of the supply of labour;
– matching: the extent to which matching occurs between demand and supply, and the
speed of that matching; and
– churning: the proportion of vacancies that are filled by persons who are already
employed, as opposed to the proportion filled from those who are either unemployed or
not in the labour force.

In using job ads or vacancy data to illuminate these issues, we need to have regard for the
following concepts in particular:

– new vacancies:the extent to which the vacancies or ads counted represent new
vacancies listed in the period, as opposed to vacancies or ads carried forward from the
previous period;
– vacancy stocks or flows: or flows: whether the vacancy or job ads series represent
stocks of vacancy or job ads current at a given time, or the flow of new vacancies or job
ads becoming available in a given period; and
– turnover rate of vacancies: the rate of turnover of vacancies, or alternatively the
average period of time that a vacancy is open before it is filled.

The economic interpretation of vacancies and job ads

Over the longer term it is intended to use the SEEK data resources to develop indicators
relating to many of these issues. The initial release consists of two flow measures (of
new ads posted on SEEK in a given month and of applications received through the SEEK
website in a given month) as indicators of labour demand and labour supply respectively,
together with a supply-demand balance measure (applications received for ads posted) in
a given month.

In each case, considerable attention is given to issues of data integrity and consistency.
For  example, the new job ads series exclude ads re-posted within a given month, and care
is taken to ensure that, in the applications per ad measure, only applications that relate to
the ads included in the denominator are counted in the numerator.

This document may not be reproduced, distributed or published by any recipient for any purpose. Under no
circumstances is this document to be used or considered to be an offer to sell, or to be soliciting an offer to buy.

The information and any opinions contained in this document have been obtained from and are based upon, sources
that are believed to be reliable. The views expressed in this document accurately reflect the authors’ personal views.
The author makes no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of the information and/or opinions and
neither the information nor the opinions should be relied upon as such. All opinions and estimates contained in this
document reflect the authors’ judgments on the date of this document and may change without notice from time to
time. The authors’ compensation, remuneration or any money paid to the authors’ for production of this document
was in no way, and never will be directly or indirectly related to specific recommendations, views or opinions
expressed about any matter contained in this document.

SEEK Limited and its related bodies corporate, their respective directors, officers, and employees disclaim any
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