Unexpected job vacancy rise draws hope

A surprise lift in job vacancies for the first time in a year has raised hopes that the labour market is stabilising, but economists say it is too early to call this a recovery.

A surprise lift in job vacancies for the first time in a year has raised hopes that the labour market is stabilising, but economists say it is too early to call this a recovery.

Total job vacancies rose a seasonally adjusted 3.2 per cent to 143,300 in the three months to August, Bureau of Statistics data released on Thursday showed, bucking other worsening indicators and a rising unemployment rate.

Private sector job vacancies rose 3 per cent to 131,500 positions offered. Public sector job vacancies grew by 4.5 per cent to 11,700.

Despite the rise, total job vacancies were down a seasonally adjusted 20 per cent from the previous corresponding period. The trend figure for job vacancies also slipped 3.7 per cent in the months from June to August, continuing a slide that started in February 2011.

"It's hard to be confident that this is a turning point," Citi's chief economist, Paul Brennan, said.

"We need to see more evidence of this improvement. When we view what companies are saying or what governments are doing, we're not really getting a sense that there's an increased demand."

Macquarie economist Gabby Hajj said despite the stronger figures, job vacancy levels were still "deeply depressed".

"Business hiring intentions remain very low. Unemployment is starting to tick higher. The participation rate has a falling bias, and that's indicative of a weaker labour market as well," he said.

"It just doesn't look too promising and this is why we still believe the RBA has some work to do on the monetary policy front."

The mining and construction industries, as well as the manufacturing sector, registered a fall in job vacancies for the three months to August, reflecting the slowdown in resources investment.

In contrast, job vacancies rose in the retail, public administration and transport, postal and warehousing sectors.

NSW recorded the biggest growth among states, with a 23.2 per cent lift in job vacancies from 37,100 to 45,700. South Australia, Tasmania, and the Northern Territory also registered gains.

Mining powerhouse Western Australia saw openings slip 10.3 per cent, from 27,100 to 24,300. The number of job vacancies in Victoria shrank by 7.7 per cent, while they fell by 1000 in Queensland and by 100 in the ACT.

Last week, detailed labour force figures for the three months to August showed employment fell by 26,500, the biggest quarterly loss in almost 13 years. The unemployment rate was 5.8 per cent in August, with analysts expecting it to rise to 6 per cent by the end of the year as the economy moves away from resources-led growth.

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