The number of job adverts in newspapers and on the internet fell 0.9 per cent in December, giving the Reserve Bank yet another reason to cut the official cash rate in February.
According to the latest ANZ Job Advertisement Series, the total number of jobs advertised is now 2.6 per cent lower than a year earlier.
This is the first annual decline since February 2010.
ANZ head of Australian economics Katie Dean said the latest job results reflected quite divergent patterns between internet and newspaper job advertising, with internet job advertising falling while newspaper job advertising rose sharply.
"This, the second consecutive monthly rise in newspaper job advertising, needs to be watched closely, as newspaper job advertising often leads developments in overall job advertising (and therefore employment growth)," she said.
"That said, ANZ believes the current trend rate of employment growth is unlikely to be fast enough to absorb the forecast growth in the labour force in the short term. As a result, ANZ forecasts the unemployment rate to rise to 5.5 per cent by mid-2012.
"The unemployment rate is then expected to stay at this elevated level for most of 2012, before falling modestly in 2013 as broader economic activity continues to pick up in response to strong mining and infrastructure investment and a likely extended period of relatively low domestic interest rates."
ANZ's forecast for a further modest rise in the unemployment rate should put weight on the RBA to cut the official cash rate again in February, Ms Dean said.
"ANZ continues to forecast another 25bps cut in the RBA cash rate, to 4.00 per cent, in February."