Each year without work makes it that much harder to stay positive.
Shania Weldon, aged 22, has been searching for full-time work since she was 17.
She cannot count how many applications she has written in that time, but estimates that there have been at least 30 in the past 12 months alone.
"I've never had an interview, I've just never gotten that far," she said.
"As long as I keep positive, and don't let the rejection get me down, I'll be alright. As soon as I let it get me down, I'll give up and then there's no hope for me to get to put myself out there to get a job."
Ms Weldon still considers herself fortunate because she has her HSC, while many of her fellow job seekers do not. She has also begun a Certificate 3 course in business administration at TAFE, in the hopes of making herself more attractive to prospective employers.
But the battle is still uphill.
"I feel I'm going up against people with many more qualifications and a lot more experience than I have," she said.
"I volunteer at the local land council and at the Tolland Centre, I've been doing that for two years now, I'm doing everything I can to get experience.
"I just feel like I take on step forward and 10 steps back."
Low-skill workers face the biggest barriers
Ms Weldon is not alone. According to the latest results of an annual employment survey, the region's most disadvantaged job seekers are being trapped in a cycle of employment rejection.
Anglicare's 2019 Jobs Availability Index released on Wednesday reveals a national crisis for job seekers, with those living regionally among the worst affected.
According to the snapshot, one in seven job seekers face significant barriers that prevent employment, ranging from disability to distance and lack of transport.
"There is extra pressure on people living regionally, in fact they are at the most risk of unemployment," said Amy Lanham, Anglicare's Riverina caseworker.
"It's not that they don't want to work, it's that they can't find work."
Qualifications not always the answer
For those with higher qualifications, the situation is no easier, according to a survey of university outcomes conducted by peak mental health body, ReachOut.
The Ready Or Not report released this week found up to 43 per cent of the nation's new and near graduated university students did not believe their degrees adequately prepared them for life outside academia.
Additionally, up to 30 per cent of the respondents were disappointed with the amount of hands-on and work experience training available in their course load.
Director of Huntsman Recruitment in Wagga, Rhyley Hunter sees the results as a significant arena for growth in the nation's tertiary bodies.
"Talking to graduates myself, the majority say they learn more in the two years out from uni than they did in the four-to-six years in their degree, that's the feedback I most often hear," he said.
"Universities need to offer a 50-50 approach to theory and practical learning, similar to how VET classes work."
Competing for 'non-existent jobs'
A primary concern for regional cities, including Wagga, is the limited access to public transport to take workers to and from their workplaces.
"Just today I was speaking to a client in an emergency centre, she is a single mother with three young children in a regional city similar to Wagga," Ms Lanham said.
"She was in need of a food hamper because she couldn't afford to buy food and pay for transport and clothes for her job interview."
Where the job market is most scarce, the competition for positions is at its greatest.
Across the nation in May, the report found there were up to 100,000 disadvantaged job seekers vying for a total of 18,200 low-skilled jobs. Job seekers face years competing for non-existent positions.
To understand how many jobs were available to those in the low-skilled bracket, the survey noted the number of people involved with the federal Jobactive program, as compared with the number of entry-level job advertisements during the same time frame.
A cycle of negativity
But even this, the survey authors admit, is a conservative estimate.
"There are at least five people applying for every single entry-level job on offer," said Ms Lanham.
"These applicants don't have the skills for higher positions, they're going after basic cleaning or retail positions."
Without the means to support themselves, these job seekers are forced to remain on government payments such as Newstart for prolonged periods.
According to data made available by the Department of Social Services, earlier this year in March up to 2024 people in Wagga received Newstart payments.
Particularly for residents in South Wagga, the rate of government payout was far above the rest of the region.
"[Prospective workers] are waiting for years for a foot in the door in these entry-level positions, and it then becomes extremely difficult to move off government payments," Ms Lanham said.
Automation slows demand for workers
The situation is likely to become direr, Ms Lanham said, as the job market continues to shift away from hiring low-skilled workers.
"We've seen a drop in entry-level jobs across industries due to automation," she said.
"We now need to be encouraging up-skilling, but we need to recognise that that's expensive and remove the burden on workers to pay for additional education and training."
The effects of automation in workplaces are already being seen through a comparison of Australian Bureau Statistics employment rates.
In 2007, up to 85 per cent of graduates with a Bachelors degree had full-time employment.
By 2016, less than a decade later, that figure had dropped to 71 per cent.
To address the job market's inadequacies, Ms Lanham echoed the Anglicare report's call for increased employment support in regional Australia.
"We need personalised support for job placements, that will help people with their individual needs and break down their individual barriers in getting jobs," she said.
It is something Ms Weldon is strongly advocating for in Wagga as well.
"There needs to be more training for people to get into work, or back into work if they've left it," Ms Weldon said.
"We need knowledge, skills, things on our resume that will be attractive. People are crying out for these services."