Australian jobs ads just fell for the first time in five months, but it's not a sign something sinister is on the way

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Australian job ads fell sharply in December, according to data released by ANZ on Monday.

The bank reported that total job advertisements fell by 1.9% over the month, reversing a gain of 1.6% in November, leaving the year-on-year increase at 3.7%, down from 6% reported previously.

It was the first monthly decline reported since July last year.

The ANZ series counts the average number of advertisements carried by job portholes Seek.com.au and the Department of Education’s Australian JobSearch site, Jobsearch.gov.au, for a particular day that is representative of activity levels seen over the broader month.

It does not include advertisements placed on job bulletin boards, workplace intranets and from word of mouth.

It is therefore a useful guide as to the trend in advertisements seen in a particular month, rather than the total level of job openings in Australia.

While not the best of news ahead of the release of Australia’s official jobs report next week, according to Jo Masters, senior economist at ANZ, the trend in job advertisements is now slowing, not stalling, right now.

“We see the labour market as losing some of its previously strong momentum not stalling,” she said following the release of the December report. “Indeed, ANZ job ads rose by 0.5% over Q4 and in trend terms continue to rise.”

Despite the sharp drop seen last month, Masters expects that conditions in the labour market will support an ongoing, albeit gradual, decline in the unemployment rate this year.

“While the labour market has clearly lost some momentum, business and consumer confidence remain elevated, capacity utilisation appears to be on the rise, and retail sales have strengthened recently,” she said.

Markets will get further clarification on the latter — retail sales — with the ABS scheduled to release Australia’s November retail sales report on Tuesday.

An increase of 0.4% is expected, a slight moderation on the 0.5% gain reported in October.

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