Unemployment caused by COVID-19 continues to significantly impact people in Ballarat, welfare agencies say, with many people choosing to go without food or medication while they juggle debts.
The latest ABS data reveals more women were unemployed than men in Ballarat at a significantly higher rate compared to other areas in the state.
Centacare chief executive Tony Fitzgerald said increased utility bills were having a 'huge impact' on household finances, particularly during homeschooling periods.
Uniting Ballarat emergency relief worker Tania Jennings said some people who had lost their jobs may be trying to live on $1000 less a fortnight while receiving JobSeeker or JobKeeper.
"They are juggling their debts to get them through until they can cut back on expenditure," she said.
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"A couple I have spoken to in general have mentioned to me they have so many debts they are going without food."
Mr Fitzgerald said Centacare emergency relief staff were seeing an increasing number of single parents who may have lost part-time employment.
Nearly 5100 people were unemployed in Ballarat in September, new Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.
A couple I have spoken to in general have mentioned to me they have so many debts they are going without food.Tania Jennings, Uniting emergency relief
This is an unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent, the lowest rate recorded in Ballarat since June and a downward trend compared to data for July and August.
Women's Health Grampians chief executive Marianne Hendron said she struggled to explain why Ballarat has such a high number of women unemployed, but she pointed to regular structural factors.
These include the facts women are more likely to work part-time and therefore more likely to be let go, are concentrated in hospitality and retail sectors and tended to take on extra parental care during lockdowns.
READ MORE: Concerns COVID-19 is increasing gender gap
Ms Hendron said Women's Health Grampians was continuing to push for government-led recovery efforts that would benefit females, particularly in the state government budget.
She said the federal budget provided support for trade and construction sectors and did not provide support for childcare.
"The whole thing of availability, accessibility and affordability of childcare is a significant factor in women's ability to engage and participate in the workforce," Ms Hendron said.
"We are now focusing on the state budget coming up to really push for a gender-equal budget for COVID recovery with strong investment in structural changes."
But Ballarat recruitment agents say the job market in Ballarat is relatively strong and businesses have regained confidence with the easing of restrictions.
JK Personnel managing director Tim Walshe said he had seen an 'incredible stability' in job vacancies since May, particularly in entry-level blue-collar roles.
"We would have filled more jobs in the last six week period than any six week period in recent memory."
Mr Walshe said the majority of vacancies he had filled were entry or award level roles in the manufacturing and construction sector, while 'juicy career opportunities' were less available.
"With GovHub about to really ramp up, I think we will see a similar requirement for white-collar professionals over the next three to six months," he said.
"I think the impacts of COVID have been really targeted in that they have decimated the fitness industry, beauty industry and hospitality, which is coming out the other side now.
"But the ones who haven't been directly affected by the shutdowns seem to be doing reasonably well."
Inspire HQ director Ange Connor said there had been an increase in hiring activity since the easing of restrictions in regional Victoria.
But she said some positions were hard to fill and application numbers were down compared to pre-COVID times.
"We have probably got around 35 applications for a retail sales consultant role but when we have traditionally advertised that kind of position we would normally have had up to 100 applications," Ms Connor said.
"Even some hospitality jobs are hard to fill. It is a bit unusual."
Ms Connor said she expected she would see more people looking for work when the JobKeeper payment was reduced and ultimately cut next year.
ABS data reveals more women were unemployed than men in Ballarat at a significantly higher rate compared to other areas in the state.
Emergency relief is available for people struggling through Centacare and Uniting.
Ballarat's gender work gap grows, data shows
The gap between men and women active in the workforce is wider in Ballarat than almost anywhere else in Victoria, the latest labour force figures suggest.
Detailed employment data, which includes statistics for regional areas, was released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Thursday.
It shows the slice of the active workforce - either in employment or looking for jobs - made up by women has fallen by several percentage points in Ballarat since the COVID-19 crisis began.
It also suggests unemployment levels among women are significantly higher in the city than they are across the wider state, one of a number of recent metrics that is likely to concern equality campaigners.
Meanwhile the number of men participating in the workforce has risen slightly on average in the past three months compared to the 12 months to March when the pandemic restrictions began.
The participation rate for women in Ballarat was recorded at just 51 per cent for September, compared to 66.8 per cent for men in the same month.
The employment to population ratio - the percentage of the civilian population in work - was recorded at just 46.9 per cent for women in Ballarat in September, hitting the same six-year low that was registered in July.
Again, this is one of the lowest rates in the state, with only La-Trobe Gippsland registering a consistently lower level for women over the past three months.
The unemployment rate outside of Melbourne has stood at an average of 4.8 per cent in the six months since the first lockdown began in March, with the rate of joblessness for women given as 4.6 per cent.
In Ballarat, the unemployment rate has averaged significantly higher at 6.7 per cent, with the rate among women standing at 7.7 per cent.
Recent months have been higher still, but the ABS warns that unemployment percentages published for individual months "may be subject to sampling variability too high for most practical purposes".
The Courier has taken the average across several months to reflect the wider pattern more accurately.
The true unemployment rate for the timeframe published in the most recent data set is complicated by the JobKeeper allowance, which may obscure the genuine level of joblessness.
Reductions to the JobKeeper entitlement kicked in at the end of September, which means a more accurate reflection of the unemployment rate may be in the October labour force data published next month.
The difference in the rate of female and male workforce participation had been narrowing in recent years. In some parts of Victoria - such as Shepparton - the number of women and men in the workforce was almost even. However, recent data suggests COVID-19 is causing some profound shifts in the employment landscape.
The statistics do not break down the figures per industry, so it is impossible to extrapolate from the ABS data more precise conclusions why women in Ballarat appear to be worse affected than elsewhere.
In August, The Courier reported that women in the region had borne the brunt of job losses caused by the pandemic.
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