“I’ve never seen it this bad”: coal job losses hurt Hunter Valley businesses

The Singleton Chamber of Commerce said mass layoffs in Hunter Valley’s mining sector have left the region reeling, with business conditions at an all-time low.

The Singleton Chamber of Commerce said mass layoffs in Hunter Valley’s mining sector have left the region reeling, with business conditions at an all-time low.

Figures for May show unemployment in the Hunter has jumped 9.2 per cent, a rise of more than 3 per cent from the same corresponding period last year.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows more than 4000 jobs have been lost in the region.

Mining jobs have been the hardest hit as thousands of coal workers faced the sack over the last six months.

More than 500 jobs were slashed from the Integra coal complex, which includes the Camberwell open-cut and Glennies Creek underground mines.

While jobs have also been cut from Anglo’s Drayton mine, Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth, and the BHP-run My Arthur Coal mine.

Companies servicing the industry have also been forced to pair back, with Sandvik cutting jobs at its Heatherbrae manufacturing and support facility. 

With many businesses in the region relying on mining money to survive, some say they have never seen sentiment in the Hunter so low, ABC reported.

"I've never seen it this bad and I talk to people that are actually retired and they've never seen it this bad either,"  Singleton Chamber of Commerce Ryan Fitzpatrick said.

"The last couple of weeks has been a real strain on the region."

Fitzpatrick said the job losses are having an “incredible” effect on spending.

"We're seeing it in the towns of Singleton and Muswellbrook it's just quieter than normal,” he said.

"Speaking to people here at the moment everyone is a bit sort of concerned.

"A lack of decisions, what are they going to do not only for themselves in their employment but also for their families."

With coal prices expected to dip further, the news is not looking to get  much better in region over the short-term.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said to expect more thermal coal price cuts this year.

Prices have halved since 2011 and are down almost 70 per cent on peaks reached in 2008.

Prices for premium hard-coking coal fell to $US120 a tonne in the June quarter from $US330 a tonne in 2011.

Thermal coal is sitting at $US72 a tonne on the spot market, a fall from $US125 in 2011.

Coal mines in NSW employed 21,953 workers last September, down from a peak of nearly 25,000 in June 2012 as miners move to readjust their workforces to pre-broom numbers. 

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