The number of job vacancies fell sharply in May, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
In seasonally adjusted terms, job vacancies nationally fell 5.27 per cent, from 182,100 to 172,500.
In trend terms the drop was much more subtle, with overall vacancies decreasing by 2.62 per cent.
The number of job vacancies in the private sector was 158,600 in May, a decrease of 2.6 per cent from February 2012, while the number of job vacancies in the public sector was 16,100, down 3.1 per cent in the same period.
The fall in available jobs comes not long after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) signalled softer employment numbers were likely in the months ahead.
As pointed out in its Minutes of Monetary Policy from June 5 - released last week - while the central bank acknowledged a modest improvement in employment growth recently, it said "the unemployment rate was still expected to move somewhat higher over the coming quarters".
"Some modest strengthening in the labour market over the year to date was apparent, as employment increased by 15,000 in April, the unemployment rate declined to below five per cent and the trend measure of average hours worked edged up," the RBA said.
"However, other indicators and information from liaison continued to suggest that hiring intentions outside mining-related activities remained relatively subdued."
Australian Property Monitors (APM) senior economist Dr Andrew Wilson was more positive in his outlook.
Speaking to Real Estate Business last week, Dr Wilson said Australians tended to be overly pessimistic about the local economy and the unemployment rate.
“We’re getting a lot of sentiment surveys that are saying the opposite to what the real data is saying,” he said. “I think we’re very lucky in this country, we have a very solid economy. Of course, some sectors are performing better than others, we don’t need to talk about the two-speed economy, that’s a truism at the moment, but I can’t see any drivers for overall increased unemployment, I think we’ll stick around those low five [per cents].
“Some of the capital cities are now moving into the four [per cent range], and when we start moving into the four [per cent range] we start to get issues with prices rising, shortage of labour and unsustainable income increases.
“I think we’re heading that way in Perth, and over the longer term, Brisbane, and even Sydney has got some good prospects for improved unemployment. So I’m optimistic about the track of employment growth.
“There are a couple of areas that aren’t performing that well, and Victoria is the main one, and we certainly have some concerns about the medium-term direction of the Victorian economy and associated unemployment down in that state.”