The ANZ Job ads series was soft in January after a tough December and today we found out that February was the toughest month so far in the history of the series: a record drop of more than 10% on January.

The latest figures showed a 10.4% fall in the number of jobs advertised in newspapers and on the internet in February, and a fall of almost 40% on the same month of 2008.

That was after a 6.3% fall in January and a 9.7% fall in December.

Vacancies advertised in newspapers and on the Internet averaged 161,583 a week last month, the lowest number since November 2005, and 41% down from the April 2008 record of 275,326.

The figures again indicate the outlook for employment is worsening, but they have been signalling that since last May, without the same impact showing up in the monthly jobless figures.

But according to economists that could change when the February Labour Force figures are released on Thursday. They are tipping the loss of 20,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 5% (from January’s 4.8%).

The ANZ’s head of economics, Warren Hogan said in a statement that “new labour demand continues to contract across Australia in the early part of 2009.”

“This in turn suggests that the current downturn in the economy is likely to last throughout 2009, with little prospect of a meaningful recovery before 2010.”