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Jobs ads at 'recession-like' levels: survey

By Stephen Johnson
12 Jan 2009 3:48 PM

SYDNEY, Jan 12 AAP - Australian job advertisements have slumped to "recession-like" levels, falling by almost 10 per cent in December alone, a key employment measure has found.

ANZ Banking Group employment data out today points to a rising jobless rate in 2009, and economists are tipping a recession within coming months.

Job ads in newspapers have more than halved in the past year, marking the worst annual growth rate since the early 1980s when the nation was in the midst of a severe economic downturn, the ANZ survey found.

Employment positions advertised in newspapers and on the internet fell by a seasonally-adjusted 9.7 per cent last month, to a weekly average of 190,661, and by an annual rate of 29.9 per cent.

The latest number signalled the eighth straight month of decline, and was even more dire than November's 8.6 per cent fall.

ANZ head of economics Warren Hogan said the sharp drop in job advertisements in December was "further evidence that the demand for new labour across the Australian economy is now at recession levels".

In the year to December, employment ads in major metropolitan newspapers plummeted by 51.8, the weakest annual growth rate since late 1982 when Australia was in a severe recession.

"A 50 per cent decline in newspaper job advertising in a year is historically consistent with economic recession within the next nine months and a rise in the unemployment rate over the following year," Mr Hogan said.

A senior economist with nabCapital, David de Garis, said sharp drops in internet and newspaper job advertisements would push up the jobless rate in 2009.

"NAB's forecast is that the unemployment rate will rise from 4.4 per cent currently to six per cent by the fourth quarter of this year," he said.

The commodities-driven state of Western Australia suffered the nation's biggest drop in print media jobs ads in December, falling by 22.8 per cent, a level well above the national-average slump of 13.9 per cent, the ANZ data showed.

Double-digit falls in newspaper job advertisements also occurred in Victoria (18.2 per cent), South Australia (17.2 per cent), the ACT (14.1 per cent), Queensland (10.5 per cent) and NSW (10.1 per cent).

Only the Northern Territory enjoyed a rise in newspaper job ads, with December's 7.5 per cent jump partially unwinding November's 17.4 per cent slump.

Internet job advertisements across Australia dived by 9.5 per cent in December, the largest monthly drop since ANZ started collecting website data in 1998.

Employment positions posted on websites have fallen by 29.3 per cent since reaching a peak in April 2008.

CommSec economist Savanth Sebastian said a rising jobless rate would make the Reserve Bank of Australia more inclined to keep cutting interest rates.

Financial markets are expecting official Australian labour force data for December, due out on Thursday, to show 20,000 job losses and a higher unemployment rate of 4.5 per cent.