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SYDNEY: Job vacancies in Australia surged to all-time highs in the May quarter as firms struggled to find staff amid a tightening labour market, another sign interest rates are likely to rise further next week.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) out on Thursday showed vacancies in the three months to May jumped 13.8%, from the previous quarter, to 480,100.

That was 29.7% higher than the same period last year, and more than double the level in February 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic first hit.

“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,” said Bjorn Jarvis, head of labour statistics at the ABS.

“There was almost the same number of unemployed people and vacant jobs in May, compared with three times as many people before the start of the pandemic,” he added.

Hiring has beaten all forecasts in recent months to drive the jobless rate down to its lowest in almost 50 years at 3.9%.

That was one reason the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has raised interest rates twice since May to 0.85%, and is considered likely to hike by another 50 basis points at its July policy meeting next week.

Thursday’s data showed vacancies in the private sector climbed 14.2% in the May quarter, while public sector vacancies grew 9.4%.

U.S. tech companies yank job offers, leaving college grads scrambling

The number of vacancies was highest in health and social assistance, followed by accommodation and food, scientific and professional and the retail sector.

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