REFILE--Australia Jan job ads rise to near 2-year highs

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SYDNEY, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Australian job advertisements climbed for an eighth straight month in January to the highest since April 2019 in a sign solid employment gains will continue this year even as the federal government withdraws its wage subsidy program.

Tuesday’s figures from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group showed total job ads grew 2.3% in January from December, when they surged a revised 8.6%.

At 161,582, ads were 5.3% higher than in January 2019, a spectacular comeback given coronavirus lockdowns in April had tipped the economy into its first recession in three decades.

Back in April, ads were down 61% on a year earlier at 64,828.

ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch said the slowdown in the pace of growth in job ads was not a cause a concern.

“Job ads is heading in the right direction,” Birch said.

“Other labour market indicators are also looking positive,” she added, pointing to an employment index by the National Australia Bank, which improved dramatically in December.

The headline unemployment rate also dipped in December to 6.6%, off a July peak of 7.4%.

“Overall, the indicators suggest solid employment gains should continue into H1 2021, and hopefully alleviate the effect of the end of JobKeeper in March, although it will be harder if that support is not replaced by more targeted assistance,” Birch said.

Australia’s federal government is set to withdraw its “JobKeeper” wage subsidy scheme from March as it focuses on budget repair with the coronavirus pandemic largely under control in the country. (Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Kim Coghill)