Unemployment in the Hunter better, but could go backwards again due to lockdown

Unemployment rates in the Hunter have improved slightly, but there are fears they’ll just go backwards again due to the current lockdown.

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the official unemployment rate dropped slightly in July – the rate decreased in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie from 5.1 percent to 4.5 percent in line with the NSW rates and the balance of the Hunter from 4.2 percent to 3.0 percent with 2,800 people across the region moving off the unemployed list during the month.

The overall unemployment rate in NSW fell from 5.1 percent to 4.5 percent.

Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes said it’s welcome news but the statistics don’t account for the lockdown that started in early August and is still ongoing.

“July also saw a jump in the monthly employment participation rate in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie which underscores the improving trend in the jobs market.”

“The participation rate dropped slightly in the Hunter Valley however this was offset by a dramatically improved unemployment rate.”

“Overall, our regional job market remains smaller by around 20,000 people since the start of the COVID crisis in early 2020.”

“Concerningly, the youth unemployment rates for 15 to 24-year olds also remain stubbornly higher than the overall rates across the region.”

“The average annual rate for the Hunter Valley sits at 14 percent and for Newcastle and Lake Macquarie 14.5 percent whilst the monthly figures continue to show volatility but have dropped to 7.9 percent for the Hunter Valley from 16.1 percent in June and 5.7 percent for Lake Macquarie and Newcastle from 9.1 percent.”

“This is puzzling because we can also see a trend of record high job vacancy ads across the region, based on the Internet Vacancy Index for July 2021, with another jump in the index from June,” Bob Hawes explained.

The data released today also indicated that Jobactive clients across the region has increased 38 percent since February 2020.

Bob Hawes said that this indicates plenty of people out there looking for work and, in many cases, are likely to be involved with the retraining and skilling programs on offer to allow them to seek work in sectors where jobs growth was evident.

“We continue to hear from local businesses that they are advertising jobs and getting little and, in some cases, no response – so we’ve been interested to understand what’s happening there,” he said.

“The online vacancies tell us the biggest calls for workers are in roles like general clerks, registered nurses, sales assistants and aged and disabled workers. It’s not easy for an out of work waiter to slide into a role like nursing which clearly requires a level of qualification.”

Image credit: Business Hunter Facebook page