There are "deep misgivings" about the job market with employment confidence falling for three quarters in a row, back to levels last seen in the middle of 2009, according to a bank survey.
The Westpac McDermott Miller Employment Confidence Index fell to 98.9 in the March 2012 quarter, down 0.7 points from 99.4 in the December 2011 quarter.
Westpac Chief Economist Dominick Stephens said: "While people remain cautiously optimistic for their own job situation, they are expressing deep misgivings about prospects for the labour market overall."
"Both today's numbers and the latest consumer confidence report suggest that sentiment in the household sector is still pretty fragile," said Stephens.
"That's at odds with other evidence that the domestic economy has been picking up, notably in the housing market, and raises the question how much further that lift may have to run."
The survey was conducted in the first half of March, with a sample size of 1563.
The main contributor to the fall in employment confidence was a decline in optimism for both job availability nationwide and for households' own job security.
A net 10 per cent of respondents said they expect jobs to become harder to get over the coming year (up from 9 per cent in the previous survey).
A net 4 per cent still expect their personal job security to improve, down from 8 per cent in December.
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