Consumer prices in Australia were up 0.1 percent in the first quarter of 2009 compared to their level in the fourth quarter of 2008, slower than forecasts for a 0.5 percent increase after the 0.3 percent quarterly decline in the previous three months.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday that the consumer price index for Q1 was 2.5 percent higher on year versus forecasts for a 2.8 percent annual gain after the 3.7 percent jump three months earlier.

The bureau said the most significant price hikes were in pharmaceuticals, which rose 13 percent, along with rents, secondary education fees, vegetables and electricity. Declines were seen in deposit and loan facilities and auto fuels and domestic holiday travel and accommodations.

The trimmed mean was up 1 percent on quarter and 3.9 percent on year, while the weighted median gained 1.2 percent on quarter and 4.4 percent on year.

Also on Wednesday, job vacancies for skilled workers in Australia declined in April by 8.9 percent compared to March. The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) reported that its index of skilled job vacancies was 61 percent below its level of one year ago.

The index registered an April reading of 37.1. Decreases in job opportunities were seen in 15 of the 18 occupational groups comprising the index. Medical and science technicians were down by 25.1 percent. Metal trades openings were down 16.3 percent.

All Australian states and territories recorded declines in skilled worker vacancies from the month before.

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