Australian job ads slide 10.3% in March amid virus shutdown

Australian job ads slide 10.3% in March amid virus shutdown

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian job advertisements suffered their largest drop in more than a decade in March as strict social distancing rules and business closures to combat the coronavirus curbed demand for labour.

FILE PHOTO: Workers walk on the streets of Sydney, Australia, September 4, 2017, as Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released on Monday showed Australian companies doled out the biggest increase in wages and salaries in two years last quarter. REUTERS/Steven Saphore/File Photo

Tuesday’s figures from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ.AX) showed total job ads fell 10.3% in March, erasing a 1.2% gain the month before. It was the steepest decline since January 2009 when the global financial crisis was raging.

Job ads averaged 142,504 in March to be down 18.2% on the same month last year.

A separate survey from ANZ and Roy Morgan out on Tuesday showed consumer sentiment bounced last week after two months of drastic falls, as a government “JobKeeper” plan to subsidise some workers lightened the mood just a little.

The survey’s main index rose 10.1% from the previous week, yet was still close to the lows seen in the recession of the early 1990s.

“Consumers can hardly be said to be cheerful or ready to spend,” said ANZ’s head of Australian economics, David Plank. “But it is nice to be commenting on some better news.”

Economists still fear unemployment could spike toward 10% in coming months as large chunks of the economy all but close to fight the virus. The jobless rate stood at 5.1% in February before rolling shutdowns threw many out of work.

“Prior to the JobKeeper payment announcement, we forecast that more than 1.1 million workers could lose their jobs and the unemployment rate could rise to a peak of 13%,” said ANZ senior economist, Catherine Birch.

“However, we think the JobKeeper payment will keep more workers employed and reduce the peak in unemployment – the economic version of ‘flattening the curve’.”

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% and launched a massive bond buying programme to cushion the economy from the impact of the pandemic.

The central bank holds its April policy meeting on Tuesday and is widely expected to stand pat for now as it gauges the effect of its latest easing measures.

Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Sam Holmes

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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