The latest employment survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists shows unemployment rates doubled in the second half of 2012, jumping from 2.9% at the end of Q2 2012 to 6.1% for Q4.
Under-employment rates also climbed to 7.8% from 5.2% in the same period, with an increase in the number of those unable to secure their preferred professional work level.
AIG president Kaylene Camuti said the survey results supported anecdotal evidence that exploration activity was declining.
“Almost 65 per cent of unemployed geoscientists lost their positions during Q4 2012 – a direct reflection of the mining sector downturn,” Camuti said.
Queensland has the highest combined unemployment and underemployment at 12% and 4.6% respectively. The AIG contributes this to the recent downturn in the state’s coal sector, both coking and thermal coal.
Roughly 83% of survey respondents engaged in the energy resource exploration and production (coal, coal seam gas and petroleum) worked in Queensland.
Western Australia reported the best conditions for geoscientists, with 5.2% unemployment and 4.4% underemployment. Roughly 40% of those who responded to the survey currently work in the state.
South Australia had the highest underemployment rate at 16.7%, but no unemployment was reported.
Camuti said unemployment was most pronounced among geoscientists with five years or less of experience, accounting for 33%. Those with 5-10 years of experience were the next hardest, making up 27% of unemployed respondents.
While most were confident they would regain employment within the next six months, 20% were actively seeking long-term work outside the profession. Camuti said the survey results also raised the question of the role of government in helping reduce the boom and bust nature of exploration in Australia.
“Unfortunately geoscientists, particularly those employed in resource exploration, appear to very much be the ‘canaries in the cold mine’ by being first to feel the impact of any downturn in resource sector activity,” Camuti said.