Pandemic job losses rises to 2600 in Riverina

 The Riverina has continued to lose jobs during the coronavirus pandemic but the region might have come through the worst of the economic downturn.
The Riverina has continued to lose jobs during the coronavirus pandemic but the region might have come through the worst of the economic downturn.

The Riverina has continued to lose jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, with 2600 fewer people employed in June.

The Murray region lost 1600 jobs in the same period, which predated the NSW-Victoria border being closed.

However, there are concerns the Australian Bureau of Statistics' estimate of unemployment is not capturing the full extent of job losses.

Business NSW Riverina-Murray regional manager Andrew Cottrill said the ABS figures had shown significant drops in unemployment in some regions, which raised questions about their accuracy.

"We're looking at Illawarra putting on 2600 jobs since the start of the crisis and Central West putting on 3900 jobs," he said.

"For the life of me, I can't understand how those numbers are drawn.

"I would certainly say that the Riverina's unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent, up from 4.6 per cent, is masked by JobKeeper and underemployment where people are not working the hours that they want to work."

Sydney consulting firm Taylor Fry has estimated that 27.75 per cent of businesses within the Hilltops Council boundaries are making use of the JobKeeper wage subsidies, currently at $1500 per fortnight per worker.

The Hilltops community's use of JobKeeper was below the average regional rate observed in the Taylor Fry report.

"At least 40 per cent of businesses in [regional] areas are receiving JobKeeper payments and in some cases the proportion is much higher," Taylor Fry principal Alan Greenfield said.

"About 35 per cent of Australian businesses have applied for JobKeeper and the payment supports 28 per cent of the employed workforce, so the subsidy is fundamental to the economy right now."

Areas on the NSW coast that are highly dependent on tourism, such as Byron Bay, had 60 per cent or more businesses on JobKeeper.

The figures for Hillltops are much in line with surrounding council areas.

Wagga has the highest number of businesses relying on JobKeeper with 33.97 per cent.

The figure for Cootamundra/Gundagai is 26.22 per cent, Cowra Shire 28.22 per cent, Weddin Shire 34.81 per cent.

The ABS figures suggested that April was the worst month for unemployment in the Riverina so far during the pandemic, with a spike of 4600 job losses.

Mr Cottrill said it was possible that the region could have made it through the worst of the economic downturn from the pandemic, but only if infection rates continued to stay low.

"I do think we have turned a corner, and I can see a lot of businesses and industries bouncing back," he said.

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