Coles is fielding 18 applicants for every job it advertises and bosses say competition for roles in other industries is surging, in signs rising interest rates are taking a toll on the employment market.
Supermarket giant Coles, one of Australia’s biggest companies with more than 120,000 employees, said the number of applications for each role had risen from an average of 11 a year ago.
Westpac, Australia’s second-biggest bank with 39,000 full-time employees, also reported a spike in the number of applications per role, as well as a sharp fall in attrition rates.
Last drinks: fewer employees of Endeavour Group, which owns alcohol delivery service Jimmy Brings, are quitting their jobs. 
The experience of big employers suggests a cooling in the job market that could push up the unemployment rate and give the Reserve Bank reason to hold the cash rate on pause at its August meeting.
The RBA expects the jobless rate to drift higher to 4.5 per cent by mid-2025 due to the dampening effect of 12 interest rate rises. But the latest official numbers, released on Thursday, showed the unemployment rate remained steady at 3.5 per cent in June as about 32,600 people found work.
Westpac’s group executive of human resources, Christine Parker, said the rate of attrition had fallen 27 per cent in the three months to June compared with a year ago, although she noted that the June quarter of 2022 was unusual as Australians emerged from the pandemic.
Westpac said the number of applications for vacant roles had risen nearly 20 per cent.
Endeavour Group, the pubs, bottle shop and poker machine operator which was spun out of Woolworths in 2021, said applications for roles at its corporate division had surged 40 per cent in the past year.
Endeavour owns BWS, Dan Murphy’s, Jimmy Brings, and Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group, and oversees more than 12,500 poker machines across 300 hotels.
“Voluntary turnover across the three-month period of March to May is down from the same period last year,” added Endeavour chief people officer Alison Merner.
The figures suggest an easing of the jobs market since February, when Commonwealth Bank pointed to a 20 per cent increase in applications per role over the previous four months.
They come after the latest employment report from Seek and National Australia bank pointed to a 3 per cent increase in applications per job advertisement for the month of May. Applications per ad rose in all states and territories, except Tasmania, NAB and Seek found. The most pronounced increase was in the ACT.
Still, the fall in turnover and tougher competition for jobs has not translated into a rise in unemployment, with the unemployment rate still near a 50-year low of 3.6 per cent.
Westpac’s Ms Parker said that “given market conditions, we expect to take a conservative approach to our recruitment through the end of the financial year”.
Westpac’s Christine Parker said the number of applications for vacant roles had risen nearly 20 per cent. Louie Douvis
Ms Merner said she expected employment would remain “steady” for the remainder of 2023, while Coles said staff numbers were expected to remain the same between now and the end of the year.
Despite the easing of the jobs market, major employers said skills shortages remained in key areas.
Kris Webb, Coles chief people officer, said engineers, IT architects, data scientists and commercial finance experts were still in short supply, particularly female specialists in those areas.
“We also work hard to ensure diverse gender representation in these areas, which means we sometimes have to really think outside the square when recruiting for these roles,” Ms Webb added.
Westpac said it would continue to employ staff in high-growth areas such as engineering, data and analytics. Endeavour pointed to heavy competition for chefs, kitchen staff and venue managers.
In recruitment terms, Westpac said it was focusing on its graduate program.
“It is an essential talent pipeline within the early careers market that contributes to innovation, productivity and operational excellence,” Ms Parker said.
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