COVID impact levelling but jobs still down
The latest ABS regional labour force data suggests a softening of COVID impact on the job market after the rollercoaster ride of the past eight months, but the number of people in work is still significantly down on pre COVID levels, the Hunter Business Chamber says.
Monthly figures for October released this week show unemployment in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie statistical area down from 9.2 per cent to 8.1 per cent and the figure for the Hunter Valley unchanged from September at 8 per cent.
The figures show that youth unemployment remains high at a moving (12 month) average of 16.7 per cent for Newcastle and Lake Macquarie and 13.8 per cent for the Hunter Valley, but is down from peaks of more than 20 per cent during the height of the COVID crisis.
Despite the smaller shift in the unemployment rate, the number of people out of work in the Hunter is significantly higher than pre-COVID figures.
“Raw data shows there were 26,500 people unemployed across the region in October this year compared with 15,000 in October 2019,” Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said.
“There were 15,900 people unemployed in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie in October this year and 10,600 in the Hunter Valley, compared with 10,600 and 4,500 in October 2019 (15,000).
“Younger workers have undoubtedly been harder hit by the crisis. There are about 2,500 more people unemployed in the 15-24 age group in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area alone, with about 750 additional youth unemployed in the Hunter Valley.
“These figures do seem somewhat at odds with the anecdotal feedback we are receiving from employers in the hospitality and tourism sectors who are reporting some difficulties filling positions.
“Workforce participation rates are down by about 5 per cent across the region compared with the same period last year, which suggests that more people are staying out of the job market due to uncertainty, which is likely masking what would otherwise be a higher rate of unemployment.”