FRESH payroll data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics paints a grim picture for the Mid North Coast and Coffs Harbour-Grafton regions, with a decrease in payroll jobs of 11.8 and 11.2 per cent respectively - the worst in Australia - since lockdown measures were implemented in March.
"This data makes for sobering reading and reinforces the need to develop strategies to allow businesses to re-open and get people back to work sooner rather than later," Business NSW regional manager Kellon Beard said.
With fewer COVID-19 cases in regional NSW compared to Sydney, Business NSW is calling on the State Government to relax restrictions in regional areas sooner.
"Bellingen should not be treated the same as Bondi. Where the risk of spread is lower, we need to fast-track the relaxation of restrictions so people can rebuild their lives and their businesses," Mr Beard said.
While the lifting of travel restrictions across the State from June 1 is good news for businesses across the region, many are concerned they cannot operate profitably under the existing patron number restrictions.
"As tourists come to the area to experience the unique attractions on offer, restaurants and cafes are trying to understand how they will meet customer demand, adhere to the 10-person cap and still turn a profit.
"Allowing businesses in low-risk areas to bring in more customers will go a long way to arresting the decline in jobs, and getting our local economy moving again.
"No matter how quickly we lift travel restrictions or how long support measures last, the whole of the Mid North Coast needs a concerted effort to create an environment in which businesses can grow, employ people and ensure our youth have job opportunities in the future.
"Each level of Government has a role to play, working with the business community to tackle our unemployment problem," Mr Beard said.