GUEST BLOG: 2020: The year in review for tradies Down Under (+ a forecast for 2021)

GUEST BLOG: 2020: The year in review for tradies Down Under (+ a forecast for 2021)

To say that the past year threw a spanner in the works for Aussie tradies would be an understatement. With the devastating bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic, it was a year Down Under like never before. And yet, despite finding themselves in the tight spot, trades and service businesses all over the country managed to see through the lockdowns and restrictions and catch up on the hard yakka, showing dead set resilience and strength. Fergus job software for tradies took a look at how many jobs were created by Australian tradies in 2020 in their system and took a stab at predicting some industry trends for this year.

Aussie small businesses are on the mend

Small businesses are the engine room of Australia’s economy, but many, especially those in the hospitality and arts & recreation industries, were stopped in their tracks by Covid. 

Xero’s Monthly Update for Australia shows that Aussie small business revenue took the biggest hit in April, with an 8.7% drop compared to the same period in 2019. Thanks to the JobKeeper Payment scheme and fellow Aussies supporting their local small businesses, the majority of them managed to pick up steam and rebound from the initial Covid blow. The most recent numbers for November 2020 point to a 1.7% uptick in small business revenue growth over the same month the year prior – a huge result in the face of a tough year.

Aussie tradies made up for lockdown losses 

A glimpse at Fergus data clearly shows the impact of lockdowns on trade jobs – every time a state shut down or raised its alert level, it had a near-instant effect on trades and service businesses in the area. But Aussie tradies were quick to bounce back as soon as the restrictions were lifted and started working through the post-lockdown backlog of new jobs. 


The biggest boost happened in June, when Fergus companies across all states averaged 17% more jobs compared to the same month the year before. 

Fergus tradies in New South Wales rolled up their sleeves the most in June, when on average they had 32% more new jobs than the previous year. This was also by far the busiest month for Fergus tradies in Queensland, who raked in 19% more jobs than the previous year. Unsurprisingly, Victoria was hit the hardest in August, when jobs per company dropped by about 24% compared with the same month the year before. Fergus tradies based in Vic averaged 3.2% fewer jobs in 2020 compared to 2019 – not a bad result, considering the curveballs along the way. Western Australia fared best in November and December, with a respective 58% and 76% increase in new jobs per company that helped make up for the quieter lockdown period. 

Our numbers for the entire year show that Australian trades businesses on Fergus ended up with 1.88% more jobs than the same time last year. So despite a year chock-a-block with challenges, tradies managed to wrap up 2020 even stronger than (the much cruisier) 2019!

What’s on the trades cards for 2021?

As the world is still trying to wriggle out from the grip of the pandemic, Australia seems to be positioned closer than most on the track to economic recovery. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg estimated that the country’s A$2 trillion economy will grow 4.5% in 2021 and the unemployment rate will go back to pre-Covid levels in four years.

The outlook is even better for Australian tradies as their services will continue to be in high demand. To address shortages in the trades sector, the government introduced the Additional Identified Skilled Shortage payment (AISS) offering incentives to employers and apprentices in skilled jobs, including carpenters, plasterers, bricklayers, tilers, HVAC installers, and others. What’s more, The National Skills Commission of Australia has identified plumbers, roof tilers, and carpenters as highly resilient trades who will no doubt continue to be in high demand, pandemic or not. 


At the moment, many Fergus customers are reporting a Covid-driven surge in home maintenance and reno work. No doubt that this is partly due to HomeBuilder, a A$688 million government stimulus package launched in June 2020 that offers grants to Australians building a new home or renovating an existing one. With Aussies now working remotely and spending more time at home than ever before, this trend comes as little surprise.


Overall, everything points to another flat-out year for Australian tradies. To carry your workload more easily, take stock of your processes and look at how to better run your company with smart job management software. Any unexpected bumps on the road (including a global pandemic) are much easier to deal with when you’re on top of every aspect of your business. 


This guest blog was written by Fergus, a job management software company that helps trades business owners around Australia get their business under control.

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