REFILE-Australia job advertisements climb to 18-month high in Dec

(Refiling to remove “embargoed” from headline)

SYDNEY, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Australian job advertisements jumped to an 18-month peak in December, recovering steep losses during the pandemic lockdown and auguring well for a continued rebound in employment in coming months.

Tuesday’s figures from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group showed total job ads grew 9.2% in December from November, when they surged a revised 13.5%.

At 159,156, ads were 5.0% higher than in December 2019, a spectacular comeback given coronavirus lockdowns in April had tipped the economy into the first recession in three decades.

Back in April, ads were down 61% on a year earlier at 64,828.

“The fast-paced recovery in job ads means solid employment gains should continue into early 2021 at least,” said ANZ senior economist Catherine Birch. “It also suggests the unemployment rate could fall quite quickly in 2021.”

Government data on the labour market have shown employment rebounding sharply in recent months to recover more than 80% of the jobs lost at the height of the pandemic.

The unemployment rate dipped to 6.8% in November, off a July peak of 7.4%.

Birch cautioned that the recent outbreak of coronavirus cases in New South Wales and Victoria states could hamper the recovery, particularly if social restrictions were tightened further. (Reporting by Wayne Cole; editing by Jane Wardell)