Unemployment rises but economy remains buoyant
The latest regional jobs data shows a slight rise in Hunter unemployment levels in March but the economic outlook for the region remains relatively positive, according to Business Hunter.
Regional labour force data for March issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the overall monthly unemployment rate increasing from 4.3 per cent to 5.1 per cent in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie statistical area, and from 3.5 per cent to 4.3 per cent in the remainder of the Hunter Valley.
Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes said an increase in the unemployment rate was not unexpected, as employers responded to the end of the JobKeeper subsidy in March, but the relatively low shift in jobless figures indicated strength in the recovery in the regional economy since the start of the COVID pandemic.
“We’re also seeing a big jump in the workforce participation rate across the region which will be contributing to the slight rise in unemployment as more people are looking for jobs,” Mr Hawes said.
“Other indicators are also pointing to a fairly robust jobs market. The National Skills Commission’s Internet Vacancy Index for job ads to February 2021 shows there has been an annual uplift of nearly 37 per cent of jobs being advertised across the region.
“The current figure of around 4,200 vacancies has remained high since the start of 2021 compared with just 2,200 vacancies in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie that were showing in June 2020.
“While the ABS statistics indicate there has been a loss of just over 30,000 jobs in the region since the start of the pandemic, the feedback we are getting from local businesses is one of eagerness to employ more people – and many are reporting a lack of applicants for the jobs that are available.
“Our recent Business Conditions Survey indicated business confidence was bouncing back and a desire to hire more workers is consistent with this trend.’
Youth unemployment in the region continued to show volatility. An annual average suggests youth unemployment is still tracking highly in the region, with figures of 19.2 per cent (Newcastle and Lake Macquarie) and 14.7 per cent (Hunter Valley), compared with a state-wide rate of 11.8 per cent.