Fewer people in the New England North West region are actively looking for work, confirmed by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data.
Added to that, the region has lost 8000 jobs since the start of the pandemic to the start of December, looking at the annual averages. The unemployment rate has gone from 4.6 per cent to 6.3 per cent.
Yet there is one positive to come out of figures according to Joe Townsend, regional manager for Business NSW. The unemployment rate decreased by 0.1 per cent, from 6.4 per cent in November to 6.3 per cent in December.
"This is the first decline in unemployment since the pandemic commenced," he said.
He said the reduction in numbers of people seeking work was perhaps due to a "lack of confidence".
The down side is that our participation rate, those seeking work, has decreased, reflecting a lack of confidence from those unemployed to actively seek opportunities.Joe Townsend
"The down side is that our participation rate, those seeking work, has decreased, reflecting a lack of confidence from those unemployed to actively seek opportunities," he explained.
"Alternatively, it could mean a number of individuals have actively exited the workforce, choosing to retire or undertake other life experiences."
The data was collected in the first half of the month, which means the impact of the COVID-19 related lockdowns around Christmas time would not be reflected in the results.
Looking at these monthly averages is recommended by the ABS, with the labour force data being "inherently volatile".
Looking at the raw monthly data, a different picture is painted, Mr Townsend explains.
"If we used the raw monthly data you obtain a different picture, which shows that 5000 jobs have been created since the pandemic, but that 2900 jobs were lost over December."