CANBERRA, AAP – Australians have started applying for jobs again, but nowhere near the pace they were before the pandemic.

Online job advertiser SEEK says applications per job ad grew by 2.6 per cent in July, a second consecutive monthly increase.

However, compared to this month two years ago, applications per job ad are still 33 per cent lower. That’s despite 40 million visits to the SEEK website in July.

“Job security remains the number one priority for workers and there is a reluctance to switch roles in the market,” SEEK ANZ managing director Kendra Banks said.

The monthly SEEK employment report also showed job ads nationally fell 4.1 per cent, but are 20.6 per cent higher than the same month in 2019.

Parts of NSW, Victoria and South Australia all experienced various forms of lockdown or restrictions during July.

“The restrictions in Greater Sydney, which were in place for the entire month and unfortunately remain ongoing, led to month-on-month job ad volumes declining by 14.2 per cent for the whole state,” Ms Banks said.

“New South Wales employs the largest cohort of people in Australia, and job ad growth or decline in the state will often be reflected in the national figures.”

Conversely, employers and job seekers in Victoria, which endured a fifth lockdown for two weeks in July, appear to becoming more familiar with recruiting remotely, and where job ads rose by 4.5 per cent.

Victoria is now in the second week of its sixth lockdown.

With around half the population in lockdown, and following various snap restrictions around the country, the economy is expected to contract in the September quarter.

This is expected to hit the unemployment rate after it fell to a decade low of 4.9 per cent in June.

July labour force figures are released next week, which could see the jobless rate’s rapid, eight-month decline come to an end, even if it manages to remain unchanged.

“In our view, the damage to the labour market will most likely show up in the August and September job reports,” Commonwealth Securities senior economist Ryan Felsman said.

No one is talking about a recession or a second consecutive negative quarter in the December quarter at this stage, but economists expect it will depend on vaccination rates to enable restrictions to be a thing of the past.

BIS Oxford Economics chief economist Sarah Hunter is cautiously optimistic about 2022 if vaccination targets are met and restrictions are eased.

“2022 does look like it should be better than 2021, based on what’s happening overseas,” Dr Hunter told ABC television.

“I think it is important to remember all of the things that gave us a strong recovery at the back end of last year and through the first half of this year before Delta became a challenge, they’re all still there.”