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Hunter employment market remains tight

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The employment market across the region remains tight, despite some signs of softening in November.

That’s according to Business Hunter, following the release of the latest monthly Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures.

In Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, the unemployment rate continues to display volatility, leaping from 1.8% in October to 3.6% in November, while in the Hunter Valley, the figure fell from 4% to 3.2% in the same period.

Both sub-regions have moved closer to the 12-month average, which sits at 2.9% in the former area and 3.2% in the latter.

These figures continue to compare favourably to the NSW median of 3.3%, which shows the Hunter is performing well compared to the broader economy.

“Despite there still being an appetite for the region’s businesses to seek employees, the participation rates, which measures the proportion of people aged 15 and over either in work or actively looking for it, remains lower than they were pre-COVID,” Business Hunter CEO Bob Hawes said.

“The participation rates indicate there is workforce capacity out there not actively looking for employment.”

The monthly Jobs and Skills Australia Internet Vacancy Index for November showed employers were still posting job ads despite a dip from 6,974 in October to 6,536 in November, a drop of 6%.

“Worker shortages are still very apparent across the region,” Mr Hawes said.

“However, employers typically back off from recruiting efforts this time of the year.

“And, 2023 is no different.”

Mr Hawes expressed the employment market figures were a positive sign… and pointed to the labour market remaining relatively strong into 2024.

“The employment and job ad figures suggest any slowing in the economy is gradual and consistent with predictions being made by a range of economists that any significant dip in the Australian economy in 2024 points to there being a soft landing rather than a thud,” he said.

“Based on feedback from businesses in the region, we’re hoping this will also be the case in the Hunter region.

“We also need to remember the estimates of the population growth of civilians aged 15 and over in the region since early 2020 is about 50,000 people.

“The fact our economy has been able to maintain employment rates and absorb the increase in population is testament to the strength of elements of our economy despite some sectors being smashed across the last three years.”

Mr Hawes said our largest employers in the region spanned health, education and other service sectors.

“They tend to have more resilience than industries that were completely exposed to market forces such as retail and manufacturing,” he explained.

“Our pay packet impact across the region has remained steady relative to regions that are based purely on tourism or other single sectors.”

The rate of youth unemployment (15-to-24-year-olds) across the region softened in November increasing from 5.3% to 8.6%.

“The monthly figures continue to show volatility and rises are anticipated this time of year, reflecting the seasonal flood of school and university leavers hitting the market,” Mr Hawes said.

“Youth unemployment rates continue to be well below the long-term rates for the Hunter and there continues to be a relatively small pool of youth actively looking for work currently compared to pre-COVID levels.

“This suggests it’s a very tight labour market for this cohort.”

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