Pandemic-fueled unemployment levels have declined in Lithgow and the Central West since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and, based on the past year, analysis has revealed the region boasts the lowest rate in the state.
While towns across the Central West saw a decline in unemployment levels each month in 2021, Lithgow has bucked the trend.
At the height of the pandemic 1,411 people were claiming JobSeeker in Lithgow compared to 1,158 in January and 1,132 in February.
The JobSeeker payments did rise again in March with 1,158 people applying for the payment.
Department of Social Services figures show in the Central West the average unemployment rate across the last 12 months has been 3.8 per cent which, while it includes some pre-pandemic data, is well below NSW's mark of 6.8 per cent.
That trend is also apparent at a local level within the region as well.
Much of these declining unemployment rates can be attributed to increased tourism across the region.Vicki Seccombe, NSW Business Chamber Western regional manager
Figures for March show unemployment rates in Lithgow have declined significantly in the 10 months since the pandemic's peak in May last year, by 1.2 percentage points respectively.
Based on the number of people receiving JobSeeker payments from Centrelink, Lithgow's unemployment rate is estimated to be 5.49 per cent while Bathurst's is slightly lower at 4.49 per cent.
Vicki Seccombe, NSW Business Chamber Western regional manager, said employment rates declining in the region is an obvious boost, with the impact of increased tourism and a recovering agriculture sector two big factors.
"Much of these declining unemployment rates can be attributed to increased tourism across the region (and) the agricultural sector bouncing back strongly from drought," she said.
"Also, our business sector has mostly been unaffected by restrictions such as those experienced on the borders or the northern beaches."
The figures show almost 253 fewer people received JobSeeker payments in Lithgow in March compared to May last year, with a decline of 310 noted in Bathurst as well.
While an estimated 6.69 per cent of Lithgow's population was on the payments in May 2020 that has declined rapidly to 5.49 per cent in March 2021.
An identical trend has been noted in Dubbo too which, in this context, falls into the Far West-Orana catchment, which has the third lowest unemployment rate in NSW of 4.6 per cent.
The number of people receiving JobSeeker payments in Dubbo has dropped from 2,425 in May last year to 1,927 last month, a decline of 1.38 percentage points in terms of unemployment rate estimates. Dubbo's rate of unemployment is estimated at 5.35 per cent for March.
March was also the last month for businesses to claim JobKeeper wage subsidies and the final month that unemployed people received an extra $150 per fortnight via JobSeeker's coronavirus supplement.
The coronavirus supplement had effectively doubled unemployment payments at the height of the pandemic, but that figure was cut back in stages.
From April 1, most unemployed people have been receiving about $50 more per fortnight under JobSeeker than under Centrelink's pre-pandemic Newstart Allowance.
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