Job advertisements in newspapers and on the internet dipped in January, extending a long run of losses that points to sluggish demand for labour.
A survey by Australia and New Zealand Banking Group showed total job advertisements fell a seasonally adjusted 0.9 per cent to 133,649 in January, following a revised fall of 2.8 per cent the month before. That was down 18.4 per cent from January last year.
Job ads on the Internet fell 0.6 per cent to 128,578 in January, from the month before, to be down 17.5 per cent on the year. The level of past ads was revised higher, however.
Newspapers ads slid 9.2 per cent in the month, though ANZ cautioned that there were often large swings in December and January that made seasonal adjustment difficult.
"Following some notable weakness at the end of last year, job advertising was broadly unchanged in January," said ANZ's head of Australian economics, Ivan Colhoun.
He argued that without further monetary easing, the unemployment rate could rise above 5.75 per cent by the end of 2013, from the current 5.4 per cent.
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) holds its first policy meeting of the year on Tuesday and is thought unlikely to cut rates so soon after easing to a record-matching low of 3 per cent in December.
A Reuters poll of 23 analysts found all but one expected rates to stay unchanged this week, though many saw scope for further easing given softness in parts of the domestic economy, and particularly manufacturing.
ANZ itself is tipping further cuts this year, perhaps to as low as 2 per cent.
Official figures on the labour market are due on Thursday and are expected to show employment edged up by 5,000 in January after a drop of 5,500 the month before. The jobless rate was expected to tick up to 5.5 per cent, from 5.4 per cent.
While employment growth was subpar over 2012, the jobless rate was surprisingly steady in part due to a drop in participation rates.