Australia job advertisements near 2-1/2 year peak in February

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian job advertisements rose to a near 2-1/2 year peak in February, providing another sign massive fiscal and monetary stimulus were working to prop up the country’s economy following a coronavirus pandemic induced recession.

Monday’s figures from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group showed total job ads grew 7.2% in February from January, when they rose a revised 2.6%.

At 174,010, ads were at their highest level since October 2018. They were also 13.4% higher than in December 2019, a strong comeback given coronavirus lockdowns in April had tipped the domestic economy into its first recession in three decades. Job ads in April had stood at 64,828, down 61% on a year earlier.

“The ongoing strength in ANZ Job Ads gives us confidence that we’ll see solid net employment gains continue over February and March at least,” said ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch. “The task of bringing down underutilisation is still sizeable.”

Official data showed there were 878,000 people unemployed in January, 162,000 more than in March last year, while 1.37 million remained on government support.

Australia’s official unemployment rate is at 6.4%, far higher than the 4% or less that the country’s central bank says is needed to boost wage growth and inflation.