Job vacancies dip slightly before COVID-19


Job vacancies in Australia edged only slightly lower during the summer bushfire crisis, though the figures have come too soon to reflect the spread of the coronavirus.

In seasonally adjusted terms, the number of job vacancies decreased by 0.1 per cent in the February 2020 quarter and by 2.2 per cent over the year.

Australian Bureau of Statistics chief economist Bruce Hockman on Thursday said the seasonally adjusted quarterly decline reflected reduced vacancies for some of the businesses affected by the summer’s bushfires.

Trend estimates released by the ABS show job vacancies in the public sector hit 25,000 by February, which marked a 3.3 per cent rise since November and a 16.7 per cent increase on this time last year.

However, the trend estimates showed private sector job vacancies dropped to 201,000, marking a 3.7 per cent decrease on the year before and a 0.2 per cent decrease compared to November.

The ABS said it was important to note the reference date for February fell at a point where were a relatively low number of confirmed COVID-19 cases within Australia and before it was declared a global pandemic.

APAC economist Callam Pickering at jobs site Indeed said theFebruary quarter figures provided little useful information on current labour market conditions.

He warned the unemployment rate would spike in the coming months as an increasing number of businesses shut their doors and lay off staff to counter the economic blow of COVID-19.

“Australia had 3.1 unemployed people per job vacancy in February 2020,” Mr Pickering said in a note.

“The highest this century was 7.6 people back in November 2001 … However, it is worth remembering that the ABS did not collect job vacancy data during the global financial crisis”.

During the early 1990s recession, the number of jobless people per ad peaked at 28.

“These are some of the numbers that will be tested when the next job vacancy report is released three months from now,” Mr Pickering said.

Australian job postings on Indeed AU are tracking 33 per cent lower than their trend at the same stage last year, with that gap widening noticeably over the past fortnight.

Some economists tip the unemployment rate to rise from 5.1 per cent to 11 per cent by June.

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