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Unemployment doubles as COVID hits home in the Hunter

Release Date: 22/04/2020
Unemployment in the Hunter region has more than doubled since mid-February, Business NSW analysis of the latest jobs and wages data shows, with an estimated 19,000 jobs lost in the eight weeks between 15 February and 4 April.
The Business NSW estimates are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistics released on Tuesday showing changes in jobs and wages based on Single Touch Payroll data from the Australian Taxation Office.
Regional estimates based on the statistics suggest that about 10,800 jobs were lost across Newcastle and Lake Macquarie over the eight-week data collection period, and a further 8,200 jobs across the rest of the Hunter Valley.
Business NSW estimates that, based on the ABS data, the current unemployment rate in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie has risen to 9.7 per cent (up from 4.5 per cent in January), with an even greater jump to 10.1 per cent in the Hunter Valley (also up from 4.5 per cent).
Statewide, unemployment has risen from 4.6 per cent to 10.2 per cent, with an estimated 240,000 jobs lost across NSW, including 163,000 in the Sydney region alone.
Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said the staggering downward trend in job numbers was expected to continue.
“The estimates may be understated as conditions may have deteriorated into April,” Mr Hawes said.
“Our March Business Conditions Survey, based on data collected in the last two weeks of March, showed deep impacts across all key business indicators – including profit, sales revenue, staff numbers and business investment – and business confidence down to levels not recorded since Global Financial Crisis.
“That was relatively early into the period of close-downs and restrictions on movement, so if the perceptions and sentiment of business are correct, things are likely to get worse before they get better.”
Hospitality and tourism-related businesses are predictably the most severely affected but job losses have had an impact on nearly all industry sectors, including healthcare, where a drop of 2.5 per cent was recorded following a temporary spike in February.
Younger and older workers were most likely to have lost their jobs, with the under-20 and over-70 age groups showing the highest falls in employment measured over a period from 14 March to 4 April.
“The loss of jobs in the younger age groups confirms the impact of restrictions on accommodation and food services, arts and recreation, traditionally sectors that employ young people,” Mr Hawes said.
“That will have significant impact on youth unemployment in the region, which is traditionally a lot higher than the rate for the general population. We could see youth unemployment climb to around 20 per cent.”
Mr Hawes said government initiatives now needed to focus on redirecting available workers into sectors where there was increased demand, with programs to enable rapid reskilling where necessary.

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