Job losses in NT shrink to lowest level since COVID began


THE number of jobs lost in the NT since the coronavirus pandemic began has shrunk, to push the Territory to ­become one of the best performing jurisdictions in the country.

But industry leaders have warned the picture may not be as rosy as the statistics show, with the number of hours Territorians are working remaining much lower than they were before the pandemic hit in mid-March.

Australian Bureau of Statistics single-touch payroll data, which counts employees and not employers or the self-employed, shows the number of jobs lost in the Territory from March 14 - when Australia recorded its 100th case of COVID-19 - to September 5 is 2 per cent.

With an estimated 135,400 people employed in about 200,000 jobs in the NT just before the pandemic hit, this equates to about 4000 jobs still missing, though it is in stark difference to unemployment highs witnessed in June, when an estimated 11,400 jobs were lost.

Chamber of Commerce NT chief executive Greg ­Ireland said there had been some "positivity" among business of late and the NT government's tourism voucher scheme appeared to have had an impact, but he warned that the data may be "overstating" how many Territorians were back at work.

It is anticipated that the rollback of JobKeeper from September 28 will also cause some employers who no longer qualify for government assistance to shed ­employees.

Mr Ireland said that it could be a case of ­people ­returning to part-time work at far reduced hours to what they were getting pre-pandemic.

Hospitality NT chief executive Alex Bruce said that parts of the industry were still operating at 20 per cent to 30 per cent of their usual levels while accommodation businesses remained 50 per cent down.

Chamber of Commerce NT chief executive Greg Ireland
Chamber of Commerce NT chief executive Greg Ireland

The weekly payroll data shows the industry that remains worst hit is accommodation and food services, where the number of jobs remains 15 per cent below pre-pandemic levels, followed by the transport, postal and warehousing sector, where jobs were 11.3 per cent down in the same time from.

The public administration and safety sectors, along with the health and social assistance sector has grown since the pandemic, as per the national trend, with the number of jobs in those industries in the NT up 4.4 per cent and 4.2 per cent respectively.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said that the Northern Territory was emerging from the crisis with a "jobs-led recovery".

"We threw the kitchen sink at saving jobs, we've gotten back to business before the rest of Australia, and we will keep doing it with jobs not cuts," he said.

Originally published as Pandemic job losses in the NT shrink to lowest level since COVID began