Riverina MP Michael McCormack says it is too early to judge if unemployment has peaked in the region after the first drop in people claiming Centrelink payments during the pandemic.
A Department of Social Services report has revealed 120 fewer people claimed jobless support from Centrelink in June. It was the first recorded drop since the number soared by more than 3000 people during the initial three months of the pandemic, to a total of 8353 JobSeeker payments.
There has yet to be a recorded drop in the number of people within Wagga City Council boundaries claiming Centrelink support.
"It is encouraging to see JobSeeker payment recipient numbers going down. However, it is premature to say the Riverina and Central West has turned a corner regarding the economic downturn experienced from the COVID-19 pandemic," Mr McCormack said.
"There are positive signs - the Regional Australia Institute has identified 40,000 jobs in regional Australia available right now.
"I must stress that we still have a long way to go on the road to recovery."
The same report showed the number of people living in the Wagga local government area and claiming JobSeeker increased from 2281 in March to 3399 in June. Due to a lack of numbers for the month of May, it was unclear if Wagga has seen any drop in unemployment payments since COVID-19 restrictions came into force.
NSW Business Riverina Murray regional manager Andrew Cottrill said the region's drop in numbers was a good sign and matched what he was seeing on the ground.
"It means that we are starting to see the recovery kick in. We did see that in our latest survey data; there was a genuine upkick in coincidence in the economy, propensity to employ and sales revenue," he said.
Mr Cottrill said he would need to wait for more detail on Centrelink numbers in Wagga but said there had been a "steep" rise in other positive economic indicators for the city. "Businesses are telling us that they are confident that things will come back fairly quickly," he said.
St Vincent de Paul Wagga council president Peter Burgess said the charity had started seeing new people coming in for support to help make ends meet.