Ona Coffee Manuka barista Dan Cullen at work.

Ona Coffee Manuka barista Dan Cullen at work. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

Waiting lists for a Saturday brunch booking aren't usually signs of falling trade, but even popular spots like Ona cannot escape a cautious economy.

Uncertainly over job losses have led to many Canberrans tightening their purse strings ahead of the federal budget, but the manager of the Manuka cafe, Peter Teo, said he had seen far worse during the recent financial crisis.

''I don't think it's been as alarming as it was back in 2009,'' he said.

Job seeker Kate Walker.

Job seeker Kate Walker. Photo: Katherine Griffiths

''We have seen a drop in trade, but I don't believe it's solely due to public service cuts.''

Mr Teo said businesses in Manuka had been working harder to maintain trade, but job seekers such as Kate Walker have been struggling to find work at all.

The 32-year-old Australian arrived in Canberra in December 2012 after seven successful years working throughout Europe and has since been consistently applying for jobs with little luck.

''I left London with probably a romantic notion of returning home to Oz,'' she said. ''A number of friends who had returned over the years were regaling the way of life over here, the fact that the mining boom had created a lot of jobs. I came back thinking I would be able to pick up employment very easily. I didn't think I'd have to rethink my entire career and possibly restart from scratch.''

Ms Walker, who holds a BA in business and vast work experience in the travel field, said she had been left ''slightly horrified'' at the process and had hit a wall following the freeze on the public service.

''I know I'm overqualified for a lot of the jobs that I apply for, but I need something,'' she said. ''My aim is to get my foot in the door, in any respect.''

Ms Walker said she may have to consider returning to Europe, where she had already built up a career network.

''It's the networks and contacts that bring you success at the end of the day, not the applying on paper and answering 1000 selection criteria questions,'' she said. ''It's all about who you know.''