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Daniella Miletic | March 18, 2009

He was told the recruitment company was suffering, that the global financial crisis had hit the industry hard and that jobs – his job – must go.

Terry Crick had just returned from time off work to celebrate his wedding, and being made redundant made him feel guilty about travelling to the US for his honeymoon.

Devastated, Mr Crick started to apply for both full-time and part-time work the moment he returned from the trip. He looked for jobs that required less experience than the 29-year-old had, and paid less than he earned as a recruitment consultant.

Last month he fought more than 100 people to nab a retail job at a bike shop.

Across Australia, professionals like Mr Crick are re-entering the job market as a result of the economic downturn. Some are “trading down” to unskilled jobs while others are searching for jobs with greater security. They appear to be playing a small part in a significant surge in the amount of people vying for jobs.

Recruiters say applications for advertised jobs have skyrocketed this year, particularly for positions where no experience is necessary. Restaurants are also reporting a rise in the number of professionals returning to work in hospitality after losing their jobs because of the economic downturn.

As unemployment rises and the job market gets overcrowded, recruiters say they are experiencing increases of up to 150 per cent in the volume of applications for some jobs compared to last year.

More than 630 job seekers applied for a position as kitchen attendant at a golf club this month, recruitment marketers Employment Office reported. A position as a walking courier, transporting pathology specimens across a laboratory campus, had almost 400 applications within the first few days of advertising. More than 860 people applied for the job of correctional security officer at the Arthur Gorrie Centre in Brisbane, a 150 per cent increase compared to the number of applicants for the same job in July 2008.

According to figures, more than 900 people applied to be a cleaner in Sydney recently. A kitchen hand job in the same state had about 780 applications last month. In Melbourne, a job as a receptionist has received 190 applications after being on the website for only the past week.

The managing director of Employment Office, Tudor Marsden-Huggins, said more people were job seeking. “Occasionally in the past we have had surprising volumes, but certainly more frequently now,” he said.

Mr Marsden-Huggins said it was difficult to determine how many professionals were seeking unskilled jobs, but he said anecdotes were emerging. “Like Terry, there is a growing number of recently redundant professionals who are being forced to look at unskilled roles,” he said.

The chief executive of Restaurant and Catering Australia, John Hart, said people who had a corporate job last year but lost it due to the economic downturn had started to return to their former jobs as waiters, in front-of-house roles and as kitchen hands.

“It’s not really that surprising that when times get really tough in other industries they come back to us, and that’s really what is happening.”

Restaurants and cafes were reporting a “huge amount” of job applications for advertised jobs, he said.

Matthew Cook, of recruitment agency Michael Page Finance, said they had experienced around a 20 per cent increase in the number of applications for jobs this year.

Mr Cook said he had not noticed professionals trading down.

“I haven’t seen senior finance executives trading down to lower roles in finance and accounting,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Crick’s advice to any disheartened worker made redundant is to stay positive.

While he misses wearing a shirt and a tie to work, Mr Crick, a keen cyclist, is happy with his job and will soon be promoted to manager – a promotion that will put him on a salary equal to the one he earned last year.

“I am here and I am working more hours in a day, but I am just enjoying it so much more,” he said.


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