Hunter chamber says available workers must be redirected


Hunter Business Chamber Chief Executive Bob Hawes believes the State Government needs to focus on redirecting available workers into sectors with an increased demand.

His comments come on the back of a Business NSW analysis of the latest jobs and wages data, which shows unemployment in the Hunter Region has more than doubled since mid-February.

An estimated 19,000 jobs were lost in the region across an eight-week period between 15 February and 4 April.

The Business NSW estimates are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures released this week, which shows changes in jobs and wages based on Single Touch Payroll data from the Australian Taxation Office.

Regional predictions 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% (up from 4.5% in January), with an even greater jump to 10.1% in the Hunter Valley (also up from 4.5%).

Statewide, unemployment has risen from 4.6% to 10.2%, with an estimated 240,000 jobs lost across NSW, including 163,000 in the Sydney region alone.

Mr 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 the Global Financial Crisis [in 2007].

“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 were 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% 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%.”

Mr Hawes said programs needed to be made available to enable rapid reskilling where necessary.