There were almost half a million job vacancies in May, more than double the number recorded in February 2020 before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said job vacancies grew by 13.8 per cent over the three months to May to 480,100, compared to February.

“This reflected increasing demand for workers, particularly in customer facing roles, with businesses continuing to face disruptions to their operations, as well as ongoing labour shortages,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.

The percentage of businesses reporting at least one vacancy also increased.

“A quarter of businesses reported having at least one vacancy in May. This rate was more than double the pre-pandemic level in February 2020, which highlights the extent to which businesses are finding it more difficult to find staff,” Mr Jarvis said.

Such demand comes at a time when the unemployment rate is already at 3.9 per cent, its lowest level since 1974.

Meanwhile, demand for credit held up in May in the face of the Reserve Bank’s first interest rate increase in more than a decade.

RBA data shows total credit grew by 0.8 per cent in May, just below the 0.9 pace seen in April, and enough to lift the annual rate to nine per cent – its highest since October 2008.

However, it was still well below the pre-global financial crisis peak of 16.5 per cent in December 2007.

Loans for housing and business were also steady.

The central bank followed up its May hike with a 50 basis point rise in June, the largest increase since February 2000. 

Economists expect a further 50 basis point increase at next week’s July board meeting.