The Hunter's unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest level since the end of the mining investment boom in 2013 amid a surge in job creation.
Hunter Research Foundation Centre lead economist Dr Anthea Bill said on Friday that the region's jobless rate of 4.1 per cent was below the NSW figure (4.3 per cent) for the first time since early 2017.
The unemployment rate in the Hunter was 5.6 per cent a year ago, but the region has piled on 15,000 new jobs since then, 13,600 of them full-time.
The region's jobs growth was a healthy 4.5 per cent in the past year, outstripping the NSW growth rate of 3 per cent.
"From March to September, we can see a stronger full-time growth than part-time jobs growth, and quite a lot stronger. And that's something that we hadn't seen previously," Dr Bill told an HRFC breakfast in Newcastle.
"This trend is also true for NSW, but our full-time jobs growth was actually much stronger than for NSW - about double."
Business confidence and performance in Australia and the Hunter continue to fall, but Dr Bill said this had not flowed through to the jobs market.
"We can see the positive impact of that [jobs] growth in the unemployment rate. It's really a very remarkable trend.
"This is also against the context of very low rates of unemployment in NSW, so NSW in February recorded a rate of unemployment that was the lowest that it had seen for the official record of unemployment rates, so back to 1978."
The fall in unemployment has been accompanied by a rise in workforce participation, especially among women and older people.
"We've got very high rates of labour force participation at the moment within the region, so 66 per cent, which is above the state rate of 65 per cent, which is also very good," Dr Bill said.
"So people are in the labour market, they're getting jobs, and those jobs increasingly appear to be full-time jobs."
But she sounded a note of caution about the construction industry, which has risen to become the Hunter's second-biggest employer.
She said medium- and high-density housing approvals had shown a "very, very dramatic" decline, falling 24 per cent across the region and 13 per cent across NSW.
House approvals had dropped 3 per cent in the Hunter and 13 per cent across the state.
She said the Hunter was still seeing a "pipeline of construction" from prior approvals, but this could "evaporate relatively rapidly".