The Hunter job market has been one of the most resilient in Australia during the coronavirus pandemic, according to new Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Newcastle Herald reported last month that 26,000 Hunter people had lost work in two months and the jobless rate had jumped from 4.1 per cent in November to 6.7 per cent in April.
But latest ABS figures show Newcastle could have fared better than most of the country in losing 4.8 per cent of its jobs between March 16 and May 30.
The rest of the Hunter shed 4.7 per cent of its jobs, which was the best result in Australia outside of the remote NSW Central West region (4.0 per cent) and Moreton Bay south in Queensland (4.6 per cent).
The new figures, based on information from the Tax Office's Single Touch Payroll system, differ from traditional unemployment data because they measure individual jobs rather than people's employment status.
The NSW overall jobs loss was 7.0 per cent and the national figure 7.5 per cent. Sydney's CBD (10.6 per cent), eastern suburbs (8.4 per cent) and inner south-west (8.2 per cent) suffered the most impact in NSW, along with Richmond-Tweed (8.6 per cent). Victoria and Tasmania lost more than 9 per cent of their jobs.
The Hunter's relatively strong performance was due in part to an above-average jobs recovery in May.
The ABS figures show Newcastle and Lake Macquarie jobs jumped 2.4 per cent last month, well above the state average of 1.6 per cent and the national rise of 1.0 per cent, as restrictions began to ease.
The rest of the Hunter enjoyed a 1.8 per cent increase in jobs in May.
Hunter Research Foundation Centre economist Dr Anthea Bill said the region's high number of jobs in the less-affected health, social assistance and mining sectors could explain its relatively low job losses.
The Hunter was also less reliant on international tourism and student flows than the worst-affected regions of Sydney and Melbourne.
Hunter Business Chamber boss Bob Hawes said the payroll data showed jobs for people under 20 had fallen a "disturbingly" high 16.5 per cent across Australia during the ABS reporting period. Jobs for people aged 20 to 29 had dropped 12.2 per cent.
"The good thing is that job losses generally appear to have flatlined and even started a modest recovery through the end of May," he said.
The ABS said yesterday that an estimated 227,000 people had lost work across the country in May as the unemployment rate jumped from 6.4 to 7.1 per cent.
The workforce participation rate fell 0.7 percentage points to 62.9 per cent, the lowest since January 2001.
The low participation rate ensured the jobless rate did not climb far higher.
"The drop in employment of close to a quarter of a million people, added to the 600,000 in April, brings the total fall to 835,000 people since March," ABS analyst Bjorn Jarvis said.
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