Sinking ad numbers signal tougher times for job seekers

Job hunters still have more choice of open roles compared with pre-pandemic levels, even as the average number of ads each week continues to fall.

Since the end of 2023, job ad volumes have tumbled 8.2 per cent, reflecting a labour market gradually softening as the economy slows.

Even with a 2.1 per cent fall just in the month of May, job ad numbers as charted by ANZ and Indeed remain 20 per cent above pre-pandemic levels.

Demand for workers has proved resilient and the rate of unemployment low despite economic activity tapering off in response to higher interest rates.

May’s labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed the jobless rate falling back to four per cent from 4.1 per cent in April, and 39,700 jobs added to the economy, a touch higher than consensus forecasts.

The Reserve Bank of Australia, which kicks off its two-day interest rate meeting on Monday, expects the labour market to loosen very slowly following its aggressive series of interest rate hikes that began in 2022.

ANZ economist Madeline Dunk said the labour market was cooling, but very gradually.

“The path of job ads suggests we’ll see a continued

moderation in the labour market over the coming year,” she said.

Ahead of the June interest rate meeting, the RBA shadow board of macroeconomists said the labour market presented a “complex picture with mixed signals”.

Yet even with the jobless rate falling and employment rise driven by full-time positions, the shadow board said wages were only growing a little faster than consumer prices and not adding significantly to inflationary pressures.

The shadow board recommended keeping the overnight cash rate on hold at 4.35 per cent, as forecast by most economists, though noted the “risks has shifted slightly to the downside since the last round”.

In recent communications, the RBA has been leaving its options open on rate moves up or down, preferring not to “rule anything in or out” and choosing to stay responsive to incoming data.

The post-meeting statement and press conference with Reserve Bank governor Michele Bullock should provide more information on the bank’s assessment of the economy following the latest run of data.


Poppy Johnston
(Australian Associated Press)


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