SYDNEY, Aug 2 (Reuters) - Australian job advertisements edged lower in July as coronavirus lockdowns cooled demand for labour, though the decline was surprisingly modest given that Sydney was closed for the entire month.
Monday's figures from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group showed total job ads fell 0.5% in July from June, when they climbed 1.5% to the highest since 2008.
At 206,819, ads were still up 94% on a year earlier when the labour market was recovering from a national pandemic lockdown which had shut many industries for a month. "This reinforces our expectation that the impact of New South Wales’s extended lockdown on employment and the unemployment rate will be limited; hours worked and underemployment will again bear the brunt," said ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch.
"Many businesses are 'hoarding' labour to avoid the costs and delays of rehiring once restrictions ease, particularly given reported difficulty finding labour and the record high job vacancy rate," she added.
The jobless rate had fallen by much more than expected this year to reach 4.9% in June, but economists suspected it could rise in July and August as the lockdowns bite.
That would be a setback for the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) which is seeking to drive unemployment down to 4% or even lower in the hope of finally lifting wages growth after years of tepid gains.
The central bank holds its August policy meeting on Tuesday amid speculation it may delay a planned tapering of its bond buying programme due to the economic impact of the lockdowns. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; Editing by Kim Coghill)