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 Unemployment rises as workforce participation snaps back


The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the latest regional employment breakdown for May 2022 which has indicated employment rates in the Hunter region have softened in the past month after sharp increases in workforce participation rates, according to the region’s peak body for business policy and advocacy Business Hunter.

The Hunter’s labour force grew by more than 19,000 between April and May, and the total number of people who secured work from this figure was 12,700 which shows that while participation has increased, unemployment also grew by 6,700. The unemployment rate rose across the state by 0.5 of a percent to 4.0 percent, where as the Hunter Valley rose 1.6 percent to 4.1 percent, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie 1.8 percent to 6.5 in May.

“Even if we take out the monthly volatility and look at the average annual unemployment rates, there has still been a rise across the region,” said Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes.

“In terms of labour force, however, it is important to note that the number of people entering employment has grown to just 7,600 shy of pre-covid 2020 levels – so we’re getting there. More people are getting back to work and that’s a good thing for businesses who are crying out for staff.”

“The Hunter still lags the state and national recovery in terms of participation rate but the jumping to 64.6 percent in May is a big shift from the April rate of 60.8 percent and we still have some way to go” Mr Hawes added.

“Businesses and recruitment consultants continue to experience difficulties in finding and placing people in roles at the present time. Online job vacancies in the Hunter continued to rise in April 2022 to an unprecedented 6,640 positions, and hopefully we will see this number moderating in future as positions are filled with a larger workforce now in the market to participate,” Mr Hawes said.

“There are still a few things not adding up in the region and our Powering Business 2050 Summit which concluded yesterday did provide some insights on the disconnects in the region that has tempered our bounce back in the recovery of employment and our workforce”

“The Summit presenters gave strong signals about employment flexibility, communication and engagement as well as skill and experience in the context of job suitability as being important factors in reconciling the job market we are experiencing, and we are keen to elaborate on these factors as the region contemplates and engages in a future potentially very different to today.”

"We also understand over 90 per cent of businesses are experiencing workforce shortages, according to the June Business NSW 2022 Workforce Skills Survey which showed that almost every business in NSW has unfilled vacancies. This is an alarming statistic and is a difficult base to work from if we are trying to encourage regional growth." 


  • Youth unemployment (15 to 24 year old’s) in the Hunter also remains a concern jumping to 17.1 percent in the Valley compared to 14.2 percent in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. In this cohort alone we are still short some 5,000 workers compared to pre Covid levels so the figures could be even worse if the workforce were fully engaged
  • Job gains across NSW were mainly driven by full-time employment, while underemployment continued to fall. 
  • Hours worked in NSW increased by 2.2 per cent on top of a similar increase in April 2022.  This is an encouraging trend indicating greater engagement and utility in the workforce. Total hours worked in NSW is now over 4 percent above the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.



Bob Hawes
P: 02 9466 4665
M: 0418 496 745


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