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Newcastle, Lake Mac unveil record low unemployment figures

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The region’s employment market continues to buck the national trend, according to Business Hunter.

For the first time since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Regional Labour Force data series began in 1999, the average annual unemployment figures for Newcastle and Lake Macquarie have hit an all-time low of three per cent.

The rate for females seeking work fell to just 2.6%, too, another milestone.

“At the surface, the regional labour force market continues to defy gravity, remaining strong despite some sectors of business experiencing a slow down as consumer and business-to-business demand softens,” CEO Bob Hawes said.

“Clearly, if people are losing their jobs, they are finding new work again pretty quickly.”

The monthly unemployment rate for Newcastle and Lake Macquarie dropped to 2.8% from 2.9% in April, while it eased in the Hunter Valley, rising to 2.5% from 1.7%, representing a pool of 10,800 people searching for employment.

The scale across the entire region finished at 2.7%, up from 2.4% in April.

But, it’s still well below the national figure of 3.6% and the NSW rate of three per cent – itself a record-equalling low rate since 1978.

Mr Hawes said the data also revealed the majority of the growth across the month occurred in full-time roles.

“This indicates to us that businesses are seeking to retain staff… and the region’s workforce is perhaps looking for more hours and stability as cost-of-living pressures begin to bite,” he explained.

“We certainly don’t appear to be suffering from underemployment typical in other parts of the nation at present.”

The rates are set against a background of the Jobs and Skills Australia Internet Job Vacancy numbers rising to 6,900, an increase of about 200 from April 2023.

“While the Hunter’s businesses seeking to employ people keep pumping the job ads, with a 6.8% increase over the past 12 months, we’re seeing the opposite at the state and national level,” Mr Hawes said.

“Over the same period, there were monthly and annual declines in ads of 2.9% and 4.2% respectively at the national level, and 2.6% and 9.6% respectively for NSW.

“The monthly figures continue to show there is still volatility in the employment market, but we are well and truly in a trend of continuing strong demand.

“This is expressed by businesses advertising to attract workers, however having access to a very small pool of people with the potential to fill those roles.

“It is a frustrating time for them as we are also constrained from freely attracting more labour into the region owing to the well-publicised shortages of housing to rent or buy.”

The participation rates across the region remain strong, with Newcastle and Lake Macquarie staying above record highs at more than 70%, and a jump in the Hunter Valley to 64.6%, which is around the levels experience pre-COVID.

Youth unemployment (15-to-24-year-old) is also remaining robust.

“It increased slightly in the Hunter to 8.4%,” Me Hawes said.

“However, this could be due to seasonal factors as we came off the Easter break and school holidays in April where typically there is an increase in demand in casual roles for youth.”

The monthly figures show there were 6,400 youngsters looking for work, an increase on 5,700 in April, yet still well below the nearly 10,000 that were in the market pre-COVID, in March 2020.

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