Part-time and casual work over Christmas may traditionally be viewed as just a way for young people to earn a little pocket money. However, these roles provide crucial work experience and training that can expand job seekers’ employment prospects once they complete high school or university.
Young workers from 15 to 24 account for around 15% of the Australian labour force. Yet employment opportunities for this group have proved difficult over the past decade. Youth unemployment is currently 13%, compared with an average of 9% in 2008 before the global financial crisis. Casual job opportunities over the Christmas period have become an important path toward long-term employment.
Indeed is in a unique position to help Australians and New Zealanders looking for Christmas work thanks to the enormous quantity of data on our site. By mining this data, we can pinpoint when to start the job search and show which sectors and employers offer the greatest opportunities for young job seekers.
Here is what we discovered:
- Christmas job opportunities begin to appear online in August, but typically peak between September and October.
- Retail accounts for 67% of Christmas job opportunities in Australia and almost 38% in New Zealand.
- Food and sales also rank highly, followed by management, customer service and sanitation.
- Christmas job postings as a share of the population between 16 and 24 is highest in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and Northern Territory. New South Wales ranks best among the states. In New Zealand, the Christmas jobs standout is the Bay of Plenty.
- In 2016, the Christmas job market in both Australia and New Zealand was relatively weak compared with earlier years.
When to start looking for that Christmas gig
If you think you can wait to look for Christmas work until school finishes in December, then think again! Businesses in Australia and New Zealand begin their search for Christmas workers in August and peak hiring occurs between September and October. Over the past three years, December job postings in Australia have fallen by an average of around 40% compared with November. New Zealand has experienced a similar decline.
By contrast, job searches tend to pick up a little later. October and November are the big months for searching, although job seekers remain active in December despite fewer opportunities.
The timing mismatch between postings and searches presents an opportunity for the well-informed and well-organised job seeker. Those who have their resumes in order in August may be able to get that summer gig locked away before their peers have started looking.
Which industries offer Christmas job opportunities?
Shopping and Christmas go hand-in-hand, so it is no surprise that the retail sector accounts for a high share of job opportunities over the Christmas break. Retail accounts for around 67% of Christmas job opportunities in Australia and almost 38% in New Zealand.
A strong retail environment also creates opportunities in sectors related to Christmas spending. Many of the industries that feature heaviest among Christmas job postings benefit from a stronger retail environment. For example, holiday shoppers often stop for a bite to eat. During Christmas 2016, food services accounted for 5.3% of opportunities in Australia and 11.6% in New Zealand.
The type of work experience young Australians and Kiwis get differs from that of summer jobholders in North America. In the northern hemisphere, summer holidays and Christmas fall at different times of the year, leading to a wider variety of opportunities for young people. Indeed data show that summer job opportunities in the United States and Canada bear little resemblance to those in Australia and New Zealand.
Where can you find these jobs?
Indeed data also show geographic differences in demand for Christmas work. New South Wales and Victoria, and more specifically Sydney and Melbourne, have more job opportunities. But a young person in the ACT or the Northern Territory will find it easier to land a job over the Christmas break. As a share of the population between 16 and 24, Christmas opportunities are around twice as high in the ACT as in New South Wales and almost three times as high as in Victoria.
South Australia and Tasmania are the most difficult states to find Christmas work. Opportunities in Western Australia are also few and far between as the state recovers from economic weakness that followed the end of the mining boom.
These patterns cannot be attributed to seasonal variations in retail spending among Australian states. Large differences in job opportunities are evident even though spending over the Christmas period rises by a similar rate in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. Economic conditions appear to be the main driver of these trends. Retail sales in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT have outperformed nationwide growth over the past three years.
In New Zealand, the Bay of Plenty is the clear standout for Christmas job opportunities. As a share of its youth population, the Bay of Plenty offers twice as many opportunities as Auckland or Canterbury, owing to its popularity as a tourist destination.
For this analysis, we categorised a job posting as a Christmas position if the title contained key words such as ‘Christmas’, ‘Xmas’ and ‘summer’. We excluded summer internships because we found notable differences in what types of work they were for, when and where they were posted, and when people searched for them. The time frame for the analysis of job categories and geographic patterns covers the period from August through December 2016.