An interesting test of the country’s market economists has emerged with estimates for Thursday’s jobs numbers and unemployment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The market forecast is for a 10,000 increase in the number of jobs in June, after May’s loss of 19,700 jobs.

The Reserve Bank hopes the surveys are right: any rise in unemployment will have the Bank wondering if the economy is slowing fast enough, especially with that surprise rise in retail sales in May that is now being seen as a one-off event. But the major job surveys from the ANZ (its jobs ads series), Seek, and the Oliver Index (another recruitment company) are all pointing to lower job numbers in June, not higher.

The Seek Employment Index, the ratio of online job advertisements to applications, fell by 5.1% in June to 83.6 index points, seasonally adjusted. Seek said that was 21% weaker than a year earlier with NSW experiencing the biggest drop of 7.7%, followed by Queensland (6.9% and the ACT (6.2%). Seek said Western Australia was the only state where the labour market tightened, with the job index rising 2%. The Olivier Job Index showed fewer jobs advertised in 14 of the 16 sectors surveyed. It said job advertisements fell 3.58% in June with the biggest fall in transport, which dropped 8.8% following the surge in fuel prices.

Financial services and banking saw a fall of 9.3% in job ads in June, compared to June 2007 and the IT sector saw a loss of 1.3%. The ANZ jobs ads series is the one with the longest history and it has again painted a bleak picture with the fall in the number of newspaper and internet ads accelerating in June. It said the total number of jobs advertised in major metropolitan newspapers and on the internet fell a seasonally adjusted 3.0% in June to a weekly average of 262,705 per week. This was after a 1.7% fall in May. The total number of advertisements in June was 6.2% higher than 12 months ago. In trend terms the total number of job advertisements fell by 0.6% in June.

The ANZ said the number of job advertisements in major metropolitan newspapers dropped 3.5% in June to an average of 16,593 per week (that was after a 13.5% plunge in May). The ANZ said newspaper job ads are now 17.9% lower than in June 2007. The number of internet job advertisements fell by 2.9% in June to average 246,112 a week. In trend terms, internet job advertisements fell by half a per cent in June, and remain 11.7% higher over the past year.

The ANZ’s Co-Head of Australian Economics Sally Auld, said in a statement that the fall in job ads is “consistent with the trend easing in employment growth since the start of the year. Employment did fall in absolute terms in May, but given this was the first decline in 18 months, it is unlikely that this foreshadows a sustained downturn in employment. While employment growth should ease modestly over the next six months, we do not expect a significant slowing in labour market activity.”