The jobless rate fell to a 12-year low of 4.6 per cent in July as tens of thousands of NSW residents stopped looking for work during lockdown, putting them outside of employment statistics.
The NSW participation rate fell by 1 per cent as people gave up on job hunting, meaning about 64,000 people exited the labour market in a trend economists say is likely to worsen.
Hours worked in NSW fell 7 per cent as businesses in lockdown affected areas cut back their operations, coinciding with a 2.1 per cent spike in people looking to work more hours.
“This highlights the extent to which people in NSW had reduced hours or no work through the early stages of the lockdown, without necessarily losing their jobs,” Bureau of Statistics head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.
“Hours worked data continues to provide the best indicator of the extent of labour market impacts from lockdowns.”
In contrast, hours worked increased 9.7 per cent in Victoria in July, following the 8.4 per cent fall in June due to lockdowns. However, the August figures are likely to again report significant falls.
The data supports findings from ANZ and the Reserve Bank that businesses were “hoarding staff”, choosing to reduce hours rather than lay off people to avoid delays in rehiring once restrictions ease.