Job advertisements suffered their largest ever fall in April as strict social distancing rules and business closures to combat the coronavirus all but crushed demand for labour.
Figures from ANZ showed total job ads plunged 53.1 per cent in April, compared to a 10 per cent drop in March.
The fall is almost five times larger than the previous record of 11.3 per cent in January 2009.
Job ads averaged just 63,806 in April, down from 136,106 in March and 62.2 per cent lower from a year ago.
Economists fear unemployment could spike toward 10 per cent in coming months as large chunks of the economy were shut to fight the virus.
The jobless rate stood at 5.2 per cent in March but the survey was taken early in the month before the lockdown took full effect.
ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch said the government’s JobKeeper payment plan to keep people in work could temper the rise in unemployment to around 9.5 per cent, but there would still be substantial loss of employment, hours worked and household income over the coming months.
The ANZ vacancies series is closely watched by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) given it counts actual job ads, while Australian Bureau of Statistics data is based on intentions by firms to hire.
The RBA has slashed rates to a record low of 0.25 per cent and launched a massive bond buying programme to cushion the economy from the impact of the pandemic.
The central bank holds its May policy meeting on Tuesday and is widely expected to hold rates as it gauges the effect of its latest easing measures.