The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for Australia and the city of Newcastle. In the June 2020 quarter, the nation’s GDP fell by seven per cent, the largest quarterly decrease on record. Unemployment peaked across the city at 11%, with young people, women and marginalised groups even more severely impacted. Between April and September 2020 an average of over 6,500 businesses per month applied for JobKeeper payments in Newcastle.
This downturn was reflected locally in the Hamilton business precinct. As shown in the graph here, monthly spending during April 2020 in Hamilton’s main industries (dining and entertainment, professional services, transport and travel) fell to one third of expenditure levels during February 2020 ($2.7 million compared to $7.9 million).
There are indications the local economy has rebounded well, with December 2020 retail spending in the Hamilton precinct surpassing prior year levels. After a very difficult first half of the year, the dining and entertainment sector in Beaumont Street appears to have improved, and the transport sector (which includes vehicle dealerships and automotive services businesses) is now in a growth period. However, there is still much volatility and uncertainty, particularly in the travel and hospitality sectors. In coordination with the Hamilton Business Association, the City of Newcastle has been targeting assistance at these industries. This includes the provision of business recovery training and support, and other targeted promotion for food services, dining and entertainment businesses. We welcome new ideas on how to support local businesses in this crucial recovery year, and encourage you to get involved in your local business community through the Hamilton Business Association.