The Hunter's unemployment rate jumped back up to 9 per cent in September as job losses rose to their highest level since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics labour force survey for September, issued on Thursday, estimates another 10,000 Hunter people lost work last month. Total employment is down a record 43,500 since February.
Newcastle and Lake Macquarie accounted for just 3000 of the new job losses. The remaining 7000 were in the rest of the Hunter, where the labour market had been relatively unscathed.
The ABS reported the jobless rate at 7 per cent in Newcastle in August, a figure viewed with scepticism by economists, but the 9 per cent September rate is more in line with the decline in work since COVID-19 shut down parts of the economy in March.
The number of unemployed Newcastle residents rose almost 4000, from 13,300 to 17,200, in September.
The number of employed people in the city has dropped 26,200 since February, from 199,500 to 173,300, and the overall labour force is down more than 22,000.
In the rest of the Hunter, total employment has fallen from an estimated 139,900 to 122,600, the lowest level in more than four years.
The ABS figures for Newcastle and the Hunter reflect a 30,000 fall in national employment for September.
The bureau's estimates are based on phone and online surveys.
It is possible some workers who have been stood down no longer classify themselves as being employed.
The figures do not capture the direct impact of the watering down of JobKeeper subsidies at the end of September.
Hunter Business Chamber chief executive Bob Hawes said employers' apprehension about JobKeeper reducing were likely contributing to the higher unemployment rate across the region.
"It will be interesting to see what the forthcoming Business NSW Business Conditions Survey has to say about business sentiment and how that may be affecting employers' willingness to hire," he said.
Contrary to narratives about the pandemic affecting women's employment more than men's, the ABS figures for Newcastle show male work falling far more sharply.
About 16,000 men, or 16 per cent, have lost work compared with 10,000, or 10 per cent, of women. The men's jobless rate in Newcastle is 13 per cent.
But the picture is different in the rest of the Hunter, where women's employment is down 9700 and men's 7600 since February.
The national jobless rate stands at 6.9 per cent, a rise of 0.1 percentage points since August, and there are 358,000 fewer people in work compared with a year ago.
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