City of Newcastle tackles COVID-19 unemployment through action and advocacy

26 May 2020

Youth unemployment has been identified as a focus area for the COVID-19 City Taskforce.

The Taskforce was formed by City of Newcastle and consists of 17 leaders and CEOs working to deliver localised responses to the economic and social challenges posed by COVID-19.

Hunter Research Foundation’s Lead Economist Dr Anthea Bill, who has been providing briefings to the Taskforce, highlighted in a forum with Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes on Monday that 18.7% of young people aged 15 to 24 in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie are now unemployed.

Nationally, swathes more have been left underemployed with their work hours reduced due to widespread closures and social distancing measures, bringing the national youth underutilisation rate – that is, unemployment and underemployment combined – to a staggering 37%, affecting more than one in three young people.

The Lord Mayor said this had been felt most profoundly throughout the City across the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors.

“We know from the City Taskforce’s joint, industry-specific response to COVID-19, that some sectors have been impacted more than others, and naturally this has affected specific population groups such as youth,” the Lord Mayor said.

“This has been a driving force behind the Taskforce’s advocacy work, directing support where it’s most needed.”

Since its inaugural meeting on 17 April, the Taskforce has jointly penned a letter to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, urging the NSW Government to consider the plight of international students in the COVID-19 climate – many of whom have lost casual jobs and are unable to return home – and provide urgent financial assistance.

Looking at the bigger picture, the overall unemployment rate for Newcastle and Lake Macquarie jumped from 3.6% in January to 7.7% in April, with 9,900 people estimated to have lost their jobs between March and April.

“No economy is prepared to deal with the fallout from a global pandemic,” the Lord Mayor said.

“However, owing to City of Newcastle’s strong financial position going into COVID-19, we are committed to delivering a record capital works program next year as part of our broader range of community support, which will help create local jobs and provide training to ensure our youth have the necessary skills to be employable in the emerging economy.

“This in addition to our joint advocacy work with the City Taskforce, neighbouring Councils and State and Federal members to attract stimulus funding for catalyst areas, including the Newcastle Airport expansion and Port of Newcastle diversification, on top of the City’s $2.5 million investment in graduate, apprentice and trainee recruitment this financial year.”