Job advertisements in newspapers and on the internet posted their biggest monthly fall in more than nine years in May, although a rise in postings after a national election suggests some potential for recovery.
Figures from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group showed total job advertisements fell a seasonally adjusted 8.4 per cent in May from April, when they edged up 0.2 per cent.
It was the biggest fall since January 2010 and job ads have now fallen in nine of the past 12 months.
Ads averaged 152,689 a week, 14.9 per cent lower than in May last year.
“Job ads were down sharply in May, which, at face value points to a sharp slowing in employment growth,” said ANZ’s head of Australian economics, David Plank.
But Plank said the proximity of Easter and ANZAC Day holidays in late April and caution ahead of the May 18 election may have delayed job postings.
“Consistent with this explanation, postings in the last week of May (i.e. after the election) were considerably higher than in the previous four weeks. If the last week of May is indicative, then job ads will rebound strongly in June.”
The vacancies series is valued by the Reserve Bank of Australia since the Australian Bureau of Statistics surveys firms directly about their labour needs rather than just counting ads.
Australia’s labour market has been a lone bright spot in a slowing economy but seems to be losing steam.
The unemployment rate surprisingly jumped to an eight-month peak of 5.2 per cent in April as more people went looking for work.
The rise in the jobless rate, together with lukewarm inflation, falling house prices and sluggish consumer spending is likely to force the central bank to ease policy rates as soon as Tuesday.
Analysts unanimously expect the RBA to cut rates to an all-time low of 1.25 per cent at its monthly policy meeting on Tuesday, followed by a second move later this year.