Almost 1000 more Gympie residents were forced onto Jobseeker as a result of the pandemic, and one councillor says the real impact on unemployment is even worse. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING
Almost 1000 more Gympie residents were forced onto Jobseeker as a result of the pandemic, and one councillor says the real impact on unemployment is even worse. (AAP Image/Joel Carrett) NO ARCHIVING

COVID-19: region’s jobless numbers explode by 33%

COVID-19's full impact on the region is being slowly revealed with the number of people on unemployment welfare payments exploding as a result of the shutdown.

From March to April Jobseeker figures across the region surged by more than one third, from 2770 to 3730.

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The Cooloola Coast took the biggest hit. More than 560 people received unemployment support last month, compared to 363 in March - a jump of 51 per cent.

The Coolooa Coast was the worst hit part of the region, with Jobseeker numbers jumping by 50 per cent. (AAP Image/James Ross) NO ARCHIVING
The Coolooa Coast was the worst hit part of the region, with Jobseeker numbers jumping by 50 per cent. (AAP Image/James Ross) NO ARCHIVING

The news was not much better in the Gympie region statistical area, which includes the Mary Valley and Gunalda.

There the number of people on Jobseeker ballooned by 41 per cent to sit at more than 1300.

In the Gympie city area (combining north and south), almost 400 more people claimed unemployment support, bringing the number of recipients to more than 1600.

Jobseeker payments at Kilkivan increased from 171 to 225

Councillor Jess Milne, who was elected by the coastal region, said the real fallout from the pandemic was even worse than the Jobseeker figures showed.

She said many others who lost their jobs had chosen to live off their own savings rather than seek support from the government. "There's a really high number of those."

Jess Milne urges people to “stay local” as the region struggles to bounce back from the pandemic.
Jess Milne urges people to “stay local” as the region struggles to bounce back from the pandemic.

Worse, the shuttering of the state's borders - which has been the centre of controversy, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk saying they will remain shut despite calls from New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian - is strangling the coast's recovery.

Ms Milne said the winter months often brought an influx of residents from across the border.

"It hurts us the most," she said.

"Our normal booking numbers are not there."

She hoped the loosening of intrastate travel restrictions yesterday would help but "we don't really know. It's unprecedented".

 

Even then, the long-term closure of the country's borders left Rainbow Beach and the coastal towns having to make a 180 degree turn on marketing after an intense - and successful - international tourism push.

"They did good work getting them (overseas visitors)," Cr Milne said.

Now it had to approach a domestic tourism market which was already a challenge before the pandemic.

"It's a hard market to crack."

In the meantime, Cr Milne urged residents thinking about taking a trip to "stay local" and support the region.