Australia markets closed

This one chart shows how important supermarket jobs have become, as the coronavirus cannonballs other industries

Jack Derwin
  • As Australian shoppers head to supermarket aisles, those who find themselves out of work are heading for their HR departments.
  • Australian grocers have seen a huge uptick in job applicants while job sites like Indeed have seen supermarket searches swell significantly.
  • It comes after Coles announced 5,000 new jobs to meet growing consumer demand due to the coronavirus.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia's homepage for more stories.

As the coronavirus threatens a broad swathe of industries, Australia's supermarkets are fast-becoming the economy's saving grace.

With the latest figures showing spending has fallen on most purchases outside food and groceries, supermarkets have become a rare bright spot, as they work overtime to meet unprecedented demand.

"With many Australians concerned about job security, supermarkets have become a lifeline for workers who are now either unemployed or who have experienced a fall in the number of hours they work," Callam Pickering, Asia Pacific economist for jobsite Indeed, said in a statement issued to Business Insider Australia.

"While many businesses are struggling, the only struggle for Australia's supermarkets is to keep up with the frenzied buying activity that swept across the country in recent weeks."

Take Coles which this week announced it would hire 5,000 more Australians to fill temporary jobs, at the same time work in other sectors looks more at risk than it's been in years. Or Woolworths, which has agreed to take on Qantas workers that have been temporarily stood down as the airline suspends most of its operations for the next two months at least.

It's seen an enormous number of Australians, some finding themselves suddenly out of work, applying for supermarket positions.

This one chart, supplied to Business Insider Australia by Indeed, shows just how much that demand has swelled.

On Tuesday, the day after Coles announced its hiring spree, almost one in nine searches on Indeed was for an Australian supermarket gig.

"That's four times higher than it was two days earlier and almost 500% higher than search activity during 2019," Indeed confirmed.

The experience of Coles' HR department speaks to that. On an average day, it says it receives around 800 applicants nationwide. On Tuesday, it got 36,000, or 45 times that average.

Speaking to Sky News this week, Federal Labor MP Jason Clare said it speaks to the impact the coronavirus is having on the Australian workforce.

https://twitter.com/JasonClareMP/status/1240431665874259968

"That gives you a bit of an idea of the kind of economic challenge the country faces at the moment," Clare said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they're people who work in the tourism and hospitality sector, they're the people who would ordinarily work at the bars or the coffee shops or the cafes that I walked past to get to this interview that are shut."

"People are looking for a safe haven, for a place they know there's going to be a job tomorrow."

They may well be joined by musicians, retail staff, aviation workers, and others as the coronavirus sends Australian into a likely recession and causes unemployment to rise.