THE New England North West's (NENW) employment rate has surprisingly risen in new employment figures released on Thursday.
However Business NSW regional manager Joe Townsend was initially confused by the report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which contradicts not only the realities on the ground, but payroll data released just two days prior.
Despite being hit by worst drought and now the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the new statistics the NENW's unemployment rate was 9.9 per cent in February dropping to 7 per cent in March, with a further plunge to just 5.5 per cent in April.
Yet payroll data, also released by the ABS this week indicated an unemployment increase of 6.9 per cent for the region.
My understanding is it could be a statistical anomaly.Joe Townsend
At first glance, Mr Townsend thought the NENW data was an anomaly, much like other regions whose data showed a positive job growth between March and April.
"My understanding is it could be a statistical anomaly. Much like those seen in other regions who have showed a zero unemployment rate for March, which just doesn't exist," he said.
Mr Townsend said the two data sets don't correlate, and was more prepared to go off 'on the ground' realities.
"We have to take what is on the ground as being more reliable, such as the payroll data," he explained.
"The feeling ... is that employment has stagnated or decreased.
"Many businesses have frozen the hiring of staff, or utilising the JobKeeper payment to make sure they are still getting a wage - that isn't reflected."
The figures also say the region has only seen a 1.7 per cent drop in labour participation - the ratio of those in work or looking for work - and barely a 2.5 per cent drop in the labour force.
The realities may be more, according to Mr Townsend.
"Very few industries have seen in a job increase," he explained.
"That being said those businesses do exist, for example dog food factories in Gunnedah and Inverell have seen an increase in sales, as have others."
He said the key thing to keep in mind, is remembering the statistics don't take into consideration the JobKeeper initiative, or the number of people stood down.
"Nor do they reflect the high number of people not actively seeking work."