COVID-recovery: utes are a sign of economic growth, and tradies are in the driving seat
“One of the signs of a strong economy was always cranes on the skyline. Every time an Australian sees a ute driving around a suburb of one of our metro areas or regional towns with a phone number on the side, that’s the sign of a stronger economy.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made this comment almost three years ago in June 2018; a time when the Australian economy had just recorded its fastest growth since 2011. But while we’re in a very different economy now than we were in 2018, with a global pandemic ravaging economies the world over, the Prime Minister’s comment holds true.
Yes, Australia’s economy took a major hit when COVID-19 took hold on our shores 12 months ago, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Last month, the International Monetary Fund upgraded Australia’s post-COVID outlook, something that Treasurer Josh Frydenberg took little time in heralding as confirmation that “we’ve outperformed all major advanced economies over the past year”.
So what is Australia’s secret? There are of course many factors at play, but echoing the PM’s comments from 2018, utes are a sure-fire sign of economic growth, and it’s tradies in the driving seat.
The L.E.K/hipages Australian Trades Survey 2020, showed that tradies took a significant hit with the onset of COVID-19 last year. Activity levels dropped by 19% in April 2020 compared to pre-COVID levels, costing the sector an estimated $1.3 billion for the month versus normal – a significant impact on the $83 billion annual turnover of the industry.
But by June, consumer confidence was recovering with a rise in job volumes, an upward trend that shows no sign of abating. The HomeBuilder Grant also sparked a jump in tradie demand, with job postings on hipages’ platform for home extensions and additions up an average of 111% across the year to March 2021.
Tradies in turn were quick to adapt. Backed by hipages, tradies maintained their ‘essential service’ status, and 29% increased their use of digital platforms in light of the pandemic, looking to technology to support their business with health and safety at the forefront.
Consumer demand for trade services soared during the past 12 months, as our homes evolved into our offices and our schools. The onset of the pandemic saw a focus on home organisation and security, with job posts for rubbish removal up 73% and demand for security screens/doors up 49% in April 2020 compared to April 2019. Demand for landscaping and gardening rose 90% year on year in June as we settled into a winter at home and made the most of our shrunken worlds. Renovations hit full swing in November as job posts for excavation and building each rose by 54%.
And this momentum shows no sign of slowing, with 138,000 jobs posted on hipages in March 2021, matched by the highest volume of enquiry in three years from tradies wanting to join the hipages platform.
It’s a strong case that the humble tradie is the driving force behind our economic recovery. And if tradies really are the secret to our economic resilience, maybe it’s time to book in that reno.