“At the end of May, 10,400 working men and women were unemployed and looking for work in the NT. That is a jump of 2500 since April and it could get worse, much worse.”
Mr Ireland says half of all Territory businesses – more than 7,000 out of 14,700 – are currently accessing the Australian Government’s JobKeeper funding to help pay their employees and this is scheduled to finish on 27 September.
“What happens beyond this is uncertain,” he says.
“If business revenues are not tracking strongly back towards what they were before COVID-19, and employment costs are no longer subsidised, businesses will have to reduce costs or close-down, meaning more people losing their jobs.
“Experience tells us that if people lose their jobs, they tend to leave the Territory. With unemployment high and likely to get worse, the prospects of population decline and future skills shortages are real.”
Mr Ireland says even before COVID-19, Territory businesses were concerned about their future and the future of their employees.
“The NT Government business survey in March recorded big falls in confidence from the previous quarter and compared to the same time in 2019.
“Many of you, our members, must be uneasy about your livelihoods and lifestyles.
“Fast-shrinking business investment and household consumption are testament to business and personal concerns.
“It is welcome news that the Chief Minister has now announced a date – July 17 – for opening the Territory’s borders.”
Mr Ireland says both the Territory and Australian governments should be commended for their programs to support business and employment.
“But much income and many jobs have been lost already and no amount of government support can replace the entrepreneurship and income that come from private industry.
“It is business investment that must drive renewed growth of the Territory economy and employment of Territorians. The government’s role is to facilitate.
“Now is also the time for businesses to put together new financial plans, to set short, medium and long term goals, create action plans, and execute them.”