Recession bites in the Hunter


NEWCASTLE — Hunter region unemployment figures are maintaining their historic trend of being above NSW averages. Figures for the December quarter show an unemployment rate of 7.5% compared to a state average of 6.6%. The situation in the Lower Hunter, (Newcastle, the coalfields and Lake Macquarie) was even grimmer at 8.4 %.

A survey of manufacturing companies in the region late last year showed that many firms expected they would lay off staff in 1991. These fears were confirmed by the closure, announced just before Christmas, of the Carrington Shipyards at Tomago. Beginning at the end of the month, some 400 workers are to lose their jobs by April unless a new operator is found.

Workers at the shipyard are owed at least $3.5 million in unpaid wages, redundancy pay and unpaid health fund deductions. Some workers were unfinancial with their health funds because money deducted from their pay had been used to pay company bills. The Commonwealth Bank foreclosed on the shipyard on December 21.

The proposed sale of the state government-owned Elcom mines, which supply coal to the power stations, will also result in massive job losses. Not so for Kathryn Greiner, who has recently been appointed to the Elcom board on a $25,000 a year retainer.

The Hunter can expect its high levels of youth unemployment to continue. A meagre 40% of the region's young people go on to year 12, compared with a national average of 60%.

Traditional youth jobs, particularly apprenticeships, are drying up. Automotive mechanic apprenticeship enrolments at Newcastle Technical College have dropped by 25%. There are also 15% fewer enrolments in plumbing and sheet metal work.