It took just six months for the coronavirus to wipe out 50,000 manufacturing jobs in Australia, but it’s likely to take two or three years to get them back.
And every dollar Australians spend buying locally-made products will help accelerate the rebuild, economists and employment specialists say.
Reserve Bank and Australian Bureau of Statistics data show more manufacturing jobs were lost between February and August than any other sector apart from hospitality, which lost more than 160,000.
However, positive signs are emerging, with new data from SEEK showing job advertisements for manufacturing are back to 2019 levels in all states except Victoria.
Economists say it could be at least two years before Australia’s lost manufacturing jobs rebound, and Minister for Industry Karen Andrews said “the recovery won’t be without bumps”
“We could see some production wind up, as major international manufacturers damaged by COVID-19 look to streamline their operations around the world,” she said.
“Aussies can play their part too. Buying Australian Made is a sure fire way to keep our manufacturers thriving and keep their fellow Australians in a job.”
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Ms Andrews said this month’s Budget was delivering billions of dollars to manufacturers including tax incentives and investments in skills and training. The government is also strategically investing $1.5 billion in key manufacturing areas.
AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said it would “take a while” for lost manufacturing jobs to come back.
“It depends on to what degree Australia goes down a path of supporting local industry,” he said.
“If you want to help Australian industry the best way is to buy local products.”
BetaShares chief economist David Bassanese said manufacturing was being hit by the downturn in housing construction and lower immigration levels.
He said this month’s move by billionaire Andrew Forrest to buy iconic bush clothing company R. M. Williams highlighted a groundswell in local support for Aussie products.
“He’s tapping into this idea that people are wanting to support the local economy and products and buy Australian,” Mr Bassanese said.
“Companies that are able to capitalise on that should do well.”
The new SEEK data shows job ads in its category spanning manufacturing, transport and logistics are down 5 per cent on a year ago, but this category also includes aviation, cargo and importing where job ads have halved.
“For manufacturing, Victoria is pulling the growth down, but for Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia there is really positive growth,” said SEEK managing director Kendra Banks.
In NSW, job ads for pickers and packers are up 23 per cent on a year ago, and assembly and process work is up 17 per cent, the data shows.
SEEK’s website currently lists more than 11,000 job vacancies nationally for manufacturing, transport and logistics.