Today’s Australian Institute of Geologists’ (AIG) employment survey showed its a tough time to be a geologist. Unemployment is at 9.3 per cent and half of those unemployed have been without work for over 12 months.

A similar proportion see little prospect of attaining employment again and about a tenth are looking to another industry.

This came despite mineral exploration expenditure increasing during the June quarter, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. AIG president Andrew Waltho said the depressed employment figures were surprising.

“Professional institutes, including AIG, are doing whatever we can to help members remain in touch with their colleagues and peers and maintain their skills, but it’s pretty hard to remain motivated when industry conditions appear to be stagnant,” he said.

The resources sector has gained 15 per cent in 2019, but this is mainly dominated by the big winners such as Liontown Resources (ASX:LTR), Hot Chili (ASX:HCH), Warrego Energy (ASX:WGO) and Spectrum Metals (ASX:SPX). Twenty two stocks have gained 200 per cent or more and nearly 70 have more than doubled.

Exclude the top 22 and the return is only 3 per cent and exclude the top 70 and the sector has lost 5.5 per cent.


Freelancers are having better luck

One statistic that caught Stockhead’s eye was that underemployment among self-employed geologists fell from 20.5 per cent to 14.9 per cent.

This figure is the proportion of self-employed geologists unable to secure over a quarter of their desired workload.

Waltho agrees that freelancing is on the rise, but believes it is not a permanent shift from employment to contracting.

He told Stockhead it was a trend that had been “evident for a while” but suggested it was more a consequence of the negative environment for resources.

“I think it’s a seasonal thing, it could be both, but I think it signals people are following the fortunes of the markets strongly,” Waltho said.

“At the moment investors are a bit more risk averse generally and that could be reflecting the state of global markets, with all this tension between the US and China adding to uncertainty reflected in many areas of industry, and mining is no exemption.

“When conditions in the industry improve, we get more people willing to throw the hat into the ring. “As the industry retreats, people retreat to looking for more secure employment.”

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At Stockhead we tell it like it is. While Warrego Energy and Hot Chili are Stockhead advertisers they did not sponsor this article.