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Job vacancies at highest level in over 12 years

Petrol prices hit 13½-month high
Skilled job vacancies; Petrol Prices; Credit/debit cards; Used vehicle market

Skilled internet job vacancies: In seasonally adjusted terms, preliminary job vacancies increased by 19.1 per cent (or 38,244 job advertisements) – the biggest lift in 9 months – in March to stand at a 12-year high of 238,747 available positions. Job ads are up 96.4 per cent (or 117,184 advertisements) over the year.

Fuel prices: Last week the national average price of unleaded petrol rose by 0.8 cents a litre to a 13½-month high of 144.4 cents per litre (c/l), according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum. But retail unleaded pump prices have entered the discounting phase of the fuel cycle in both Brisbane and Melbourne with Sydney set to follow.

Credit card debt: According to the Reserve Bank, the average credit/charge card balance rose by $60.51 or 2.2 per cent to $2,873.83 in February.

Used car prices: Used vehicle prices rose by 2.0 per cent last week with supply down 29.8 per cent over the Easter long weekend.

Movements in the petrol price can affect consumer spending, and in turn, prospects for retailers. Skilled vacancies highlights the strength of the job market and has implications for placement agencies and retailers. The credit & debit card spending data provides guidance for consumer-focussed businesses. Used car price data is useful in gauging activity levels in the motor vehicle market.

What does it all mean?

• Forward-looking indicators of Aussie labour demand remain strong. Today the National Skills Commission issued the preliminary March skilled internet job vacancies report with ads surging by 19.1 per cent or by 38,244 available positions in the month. It was the biggest percentage lift in monthly job vacancies in nine months with the number of ads lifting for an 11th consecutive month to 238,747 available positions – the highest level since October 2008.

• Recruitment activity was buoyant across all Australian states and territories in March with ads up most in Western Australia (+23.9 per cent), followed by Tasmania (+19.9 per cent), Victoria (+19.7 per cent), NSW (+16.8 per cent), Queensland (+15.6 per cent), South Australia (+14.7 per cent), Northern Territory (+10.5 per cent) and the ACT (+6.0 per cent).

• And it doesn’t stop there. The number of advertised jobs in the ACT (7,182) in March were at the highest level since January 2006 (when records began). And ads were elevated across all other regions: NSW (75,336 – highest since October 2008), Victoria (60,163 – highest since August 2008), Queensland (46,723 – highest since January 2009), South Australia (12,675 – highest since December 2008), WA (27,625 – highest since June 2012), Tasmania (2,999 – highest since July 2008) and the Northern Territory (2,657 – highest since March 2013).

• Petrol prices remain elevated in Melbourne, but motorists could pay less at the bowser ahead of the school run next week with average unleaded retail petrol prices easing from recent peaks of 165.8 cents a litre on April 5 to 156.0 cents a litre today, according to MotorMouth. Fuel prices are expected to gradually ease over the next fortnight as prices enter the cheaper phase of the retail price cycle. Drivers should top-up rather than fill up their cars in the near-term, rewarding servos offering fuel below a $1.45 a litre.

• The average retail unleaded petrol price is expected to peak at $1.50-$1.60 in Sydney over the coming days. Fuel prices have already hit 169.9 cents a litre in Sydney’s beachside and northern suburbs. But pump prices are today below $1.30 a litre in pockets of Western Sydney, including Fairfield, Georges Hall, Granville, Guildford, Lurnea, Padstow, Smithfield and Villawood. Sydney drivers should shop around for the best deals using real-time fuel apps to save themselves some coin, as prices won’t begin to ease until the weekend.

• Petrol prices in South-East Queensland have entered the discounting phase of the fuel cycle with Brisbane’s average unleaded retail price now 19 cents a litre lower than the most recent cycle peak of 164.9 cents a litre on March 31. That said, motorists should hold-off filling up the tank for now, as prices will continue to fall over the next fortnight.

What do you need to know?

Weekly petrol prices

• Last week the national average price of unleaded petrol rose by 0.8 cents a litre to a 13½-month high of 144.4 cents per litre (c/l) according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum. Metropolitan prices rose by 1.3 cents to 147.4 c/l, but regional prices fell by 0.2 cents to 138.4 c/l.

• Average unleaded petrol prices across states and territories over the past week were: Sydney (+6.2 cents to 139.5 c/l), Melbourne (+7.1 cents to 161.5 c/l), Brisbane (-9.7 cents to 152.7 c/l), Adelaide (-4.4 cents to 129.7 c/l), Perth (flat at 139.3 c/l), Darwin (flat at 139.8 c/l), Canberra (flat at 140.4 c/l) and Hobart (+0.2 cents to 142.9 c/l).

• The smoothed gross retail margin (2-month rolling average) for unleaded petrol rose from 14.76 cents per litre to 15.60 cents a litre (24-month average: 15.68 cents a litre).

• The national average diesel petrol price was unchanged at 135.1 cents a litre over the past week. The metropolitan price was flat at 134.0 cents a litre and the regional price stayed the same as last week at 136.0 cents a litre.

• Last week, the national average unleaded Terminal Gate Price (TGP) was up by 1.3 cents to 125.4 cents a litre. And the terminal gate diesel price rose by 0.1 cent to 119.3 cents a litre.

• Today, the average unleaded TGP stands at 125.1 cents a litre, little changed over the week. And the terminal gate diesel price is down 0.3 cents to 119.1 cents a litre from a week ago.

• MotorMouth records the following average retail prices for unleaded fuel in capital cities today: Sydney 147.5c/l; Melbourne 156.0c/l; Brisbane 145.7c/l; Adelaide 141.3c/l; Perth 128.1c/l; Hobart 142.6c/l; Darwin 140.0c/l; and Canberra 140.3c/l.

• Last week the key Singapore gasoline price fell by US$1.78 or 2.4 per cent to US$71.23 a barrel. In Australian dollar terms, the Singapore gasoline price declined $3.24 or 3.4 per cent to $93.55 a barrel or 58.84 cents a litre.

Preliminary skilled internet job vacancies – March

• In seasonally adjusted terms, preliminary job vacancies increased by 19.1 per cent (or 38,244 job advertisements) – the biggest lift in 9 months – in March to stand at a 12-year high of 238,747 available positions. Job ads are up 96.4 per cent (or 117,184 advertisements) over the year.

• All states and territories recorded an increase in job advertisements in March: Western Australia (+23.9 per cent), followed by Tasmania (+19.9 per cent), Victoria (+19.7 per cent), NSW (+16.8 per cent), Queensland (+15.6 per cent), South Australia (+14.7 per cent), Northern Territory (+10.5 per cent) and the ACT (+6.0 per cent).

Credit and debit card lending – February

• The average credit/charge card balance rose by $60.51 or 2.2 per cent to $2,873.83 in February. And the average limit increased by $1.25 or less than 0.1 per cent to $9,848.65.

• The number of credit and charge card purchases rose by 0.1 per cent in seasonally adjusted terms in February to be up 1.0 per cent on the year. The value of purchases made with credit and charge cards fell by 1.1 per cent in February to be down by 8.6 per cent on a year ago.

• The number of overseas purchases rose by 22.2 per cent in February, but were down 38.1 per cent on the year. The value of overseas purchases jumped 29.8 per cent in February, but were down 53.3 per cent on the year.

• The number of debit card purchases rose by 1.4 per cent in February to be up 15.3 per cent on the year. The value of debit card purchases rose by 1.0 per cent to be up 19.1 per cent on the year.

• By value, the sum of credit & debit card purchases rose by 0.1 per cent in February. Card purchases were up 5.6 cent on the year. Smoothed annual growth (12-month average) was steady at 0.8 per cent.

• The number of credit and charge card accounts stood at a 13½-year low of 13.49 million in February, down from 13.55 million in January. Accounts are down 7.6 per cent on the year.

• The number of debit card accounts rose by 0.4 per cent to 35.18 million in February. Accounts are up 3.6 per cent on the year.

• The number and value of ATM transactions continues to fall. The number of ATM withdrawals in February was down by 21.8 per cent on the year with the value down by 13.9 per cent.

Weekly used vehicle market – April 12

• Datium Insights have reported the following results for the week to April 12:

“Prices were up last week (+2.0 per cent) with light commercials (+5.5 per cent) seeing strong growth.

Supply fell again (-29.8 per cent) due to the Easter long weekend.

Clearance rates also fell (-5.2 per cent).

Prices for the top 15 traded vehicles were largely positive with the Isuzu D-MAX (+6.2 per cent) and Toyota Hiace (+10.9 per cent) reversing last week’s falls.

Stock still remains considerably low.”

What is the importance of the economic data?

• The National Skills Commission releases a monthly Internet Vacancy Index. The index is based on a count of online job advertisements newly lodged on three main job boards (SEEK, CareerOne and Australian JobSearch) during the month. The index is the only publicly available source of detailed data for online vacancies, including around 350 occupations (at all skill levels), as well as for all states/territories and 37 regions.

• Weekly petrol prices data are compiled by ORIMA Research on behalf of the Australian Institute of Petroleum (AIP). National average retail prices are calculated as the weighted average of each State/Territory metropolitan and non-metropolitan retail petrol prices, with the weights based on the number of registered petrol vehicles in each of these regions. AIP data for retail petrol prices is based on available market data supplied by MotorMouth.

• The Reserve Bank releases data on credit and debit card transactions each month. The credit card figures are useful in highlighting consumer borrowing and spending trends.

• Data analytics firm, Datium Insights, provides a weekly report on the used vehicle market. Datium Insights and Moody’s Analytics also issue a monthly reading on used vehicle prices. The data assists in gauging the strength of a key component of consumer spending and provides insights on the Autos and components sector of the sharemarket.

What are the implications for investors?

• The all-important labour force survey is issued on Thursday. If the skilled internet job vacancies report is any guide, employment growth should remain solid in March. Commonwealth Bank (CBA) Group economists estimate that Australia added around 45,000 jobs in March with the unemployment rate easing from 5.8 per cent to 5.6 per cent. While the expiry of the JobKeeper wage subsidy at the end of March could weigh on labour market momentum in the near-term, CBA Group economists still expect the unemployment rate to fall to 5.0 per cent by the end of 2021 amid strong labour demand and reduced overseas labour supply due to international border closures.

Published by Ryan Felsman, Senior Economist, CommSec