The latest unemployment figures paint a grim picture for the Riverina, with an estimated 3700 full-time and part-time jobs lost to the coronavirus lockdown.
That alone would be a doubling in the Riverina's unemployment rate from 5 to 10 per cent, however Business NSW Murray-Riverina regional manager Andrew Cottrill said those figures are only the tip of the iceberg.
Mr Cottrill said the numbers do not reflect the scores of casuals and underemployed workers who are left out of the data, especially in the hospitality industry which relies on a large casual workforce.
"There's certainly a reduction of hours across the board in most industries, particularly tourism, hospitality, pubs, clubs, hotels [and] motels," Mr Cottrill said.
"That's a sector of our economy that is hurting badly and is likely to have a much longer road to recovery."
Mr Cottrill said the loosening of restrictions on cafes, pubs and restaurants was cold comfort for many businesses, who would still likely end up losing money under the 10-person cap.
Townhouse owner Andrew Buik said he was still forced to run a reduced roster even under the eased restrictions, however he said the changes were a step in the right direction and a promising sign of things to come.
"As we head down this road to recovery hopefully we can bring more people back in as the restrictions ease," Mr Buik said.
"Certainly we've had to scale back our numbers of employment, but thanks to the JobKeeper policy we've been able to keep a lot of people in pay."
Although Riverina unemployment figures have shown a sharp increase, Mr Cottrill said Wagga's economy was still faring better than many other bigger cities that relied more heavily on tourism.
Mr Cottrill said there was a mood of optimism among Riverina business owners, with their own polling showing "very strong" levels of business confidence.
At a Business NSW virtual meeting last week, more than 70 per cent of business owners said they were "very confident" they would open up again, more than 20 per cent were somewhat confident, and only around 7 per cent feared for the viability of their business.
Mr Cottrill said businesses were optimistic because of the low rates of infections in the Riverina, and that Business NSW was negotiating with the state government to ask for regional centres to open up first.
While restrictions continue, Mr Cottrill is urging people to continue flattening the curve and to download the COVIDSafe app so that restrictions can be lifted sooner rather than later.
"We think it's really important people download the COVIDSafe app, because if there's an outbreak the last thing we want is for businesses to have to shut down again," Mr Cottrill said.
"We don't want a business to invest a lot of money in relaunching and bring all their staff back on, only to find out in a month's time they have to shut down again because of a second outbreak."
The Australian Bureau of Statistics' April report shows 594,300 fewer people in jobs across the rest of the country, as well as a 9.2 per cent drop in total work hours over the same period.
The report shows the "underutilisation rate", which combines the unemployment and underemployment rates, rose to a record high of 19.9 per cent.
When considered together, about 2.7 million Australians either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced in April.