CANBERRA, AAP – There are further signs the strong demand for workers that was seen in the latter stages of 2021 is coming off the boil as the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant casts a cloud over the economic outlook.

New Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows there were 396,100 job vacancies in November, 18.5 per cent more than in August last year.

ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said vacancies continue to reach record highs.

“These figures continue to show the high demand for workers from businesses emerging from lockdowns, together with ongoing labour shortages, particularly in lower paying industries,” Mr Jarvis said.

However, preliminary – and more up to date – figures from the National Skills Commission show job advertisements on the internet fell 2.5 per cent in December.

“This is the first decline in recruitment activity following the recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 Delta outbreak observed over the previous three months,” the commission said.

Even so, online job ads were 37.4 per cent higher than a year earlier.

ANZ’s job advertising series released earlier this month fell 5.5 per cent in December.

Confidence has also declined due to uncertainty over the outlook, with tens of thousands of Australians being infected daily by the Omicron variant, disrupting the workforce and putting further strain on supply chains.

“We are seeing businesses forced to close temporarily because of staff shortages,” NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet told reporters in Sydney.

“Confidence is low at the moment but confidence will return when case numbers subside.”

The World Bank has downgraded its global economic forecasts, saying the rapid spread of the Omicron strain indicates the pandemic is likely to continue to disrupt economic activity in the near term.

“The world economy is simultaneously facing COVID-19, inflation, and policy uncertainty, with government spending and monetary policies in uncharted territory,” World Bank Group President David Malpass said.

The World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report predicts a marked deceleration in world growth from 5.5 per cent in 2021 to 4.1 per cent in 2022 and 3.2 per cent in 2023 as pent-up demand dissipates and as fiscal and monetary support is unwound across the world.

Meanwhile, a separate report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development shows inflation in the OECD area surged to 5.8 per cent in the 12 months to November 2021, the highest rate since May 1996.

It notes that energy prices soared 27.7 per cent over this period, the fastest pace since June 1980.

The Australian consumer price index for the December quarter is due on January 25.