Australia’s bosses are confident about their outlook in 2022, despite the latest disruption to the economy from the Omicron outbreak.

A survey conducted by employment specialist Robert Half found almost three-quarters of respondents were confident about their growth prospects in 2022 compared to 2021.

While the survey was undertaken in November and December and prior to Omicron being felt, Robert Half director Nicole Gorton said the past two years of COVID-related disruption have strengthened businesses’ organisational agility and adaptability,

“Australian businesses are generally well prepared to weather the latest COVID outbreak while continuing to pursue their strategic priorities for the year,” she told AAP.

Four out of five of the 300 hiring managers polled, including chief financial officers and chief information officers, intend to hire permanent staff this year, although half expect this to be more challenging than prior to the pandemic.

“Even with the gradual return of international migration this year, the shortfall of skilled talent entering the market over the past two years will take at least the same amount of time to recover, if not more,” she said.

She says the fierce competition for skilled staff has put job seekers in the driver’s seat for commanding better remuneration and benefit packages.

The survey found almost two in five bosses identify meeting candidates’ salary expectations to be their main challenge.

However, economists are now less certain about the outlook from here due to the impact of Omicron, which has seen a massive spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths, and led to a further upheaval of supply chains.

While Commonwealth Bank group economists expect unemployment to remain low, they have cut their economic growth forecast for the March quarter to one per cent from a pre-Omicron outbreak estimate of 2.3 per cent.

“With a peak in new cases not expected for several weeks, production, hours worked and consumption will all take a hit in the March quarter,” Commonwealth Securities senior economist Ryan Felsman said.

Economists will get some clues for Thursday’s crucial labour force figures when the Australian Bureau of Statistics releases its latest payroll jobs data for the fortnight to December 18 on Wednesday.

Economists expect the strong employment recovery seen in November, coupled with a steep drop in the jobless rate, extended into December.

That said, consumer confidence has taken a turn for the worse and there are already signs this is hurting retail spending in the first few weeks of this year.

The ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index tumbled 7.6 per cent in the past week, the weakest January result since 1992.

The broader monthly Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer sentiment survey for January is also released on Wednesday.


Colin Brinsden, AAP Economics and Business Correspondent
(Australian Associated Press)