Regional unemployment in Victoria has plunged to an unprecedented low as jobs continue to grow in towns and cities across the state.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows Victoria’s regional unemployment rate fell to 2.4 per cent in July – the lowest in the country and the lowest mark in the state’s history. The national regional unemployment rate stands at 3.3 per cent.
More than 8000 jobs were created in regional areas last month – the best performance among the states – pushing the total number of people in work in the regions to a record high 864,000.
In Shepparton the unemployment rate is 1.3 per cent, in Hume it’s 1.4 per cent, in Warrnambool and the Southwest it’s 1.7 per cent and in Latrobe-Gippsland it’s 2 per cent.
The news has been met with cautious optimism.
Committee for Echuca Moama (C4EM) chief executive officer Chris Janson said it was heartening that unemployment levels were so low.
‘A healthy economy is one where jobs growth continues and this is great to see, but the downside is that many local businesses are facing more and more difficulty sourcing employees,’ he said.
‘There are few businesses who haven’t been affected by staff shortages in recent times. The other negative impact brought on by the jobs growth is the flow-on effect this will have on systems which are already under pressure, like health and education, not to mention our housing crisis. It’s very difficult to attract new employees to the region when rental properties and housing are either unavailable or incredibly expensive.
‘We are currently working with Echuca Regional Health’s Project Manager, Relocation and Well-being Lauren Byrne to address some of these issues, with a Community Connector Forum held last week to talk about attraction and retention of employees.’
The workshop included more than 40 people from the Murray-Campaspe region, representing small and large businesses, community groups, education institutions and council members. The group discussed attraction and retention in the region, current employer initiatives and considered community focused strategies for a sustainable future workforce.
‘We are very excited to be partnering with Lauren and Echuca Regional Health to identify and address areas of concern when it comes to attracting and retaining people into the region’s workforce,’ Chris said.
C4EM is also focused on tackling the issue of housing, with its newly formed Housing Availability Working Group.
‘Last year C4EM hosted the Let’s Talk Housing seminar which featured The University of Melbourne’s Professor Rebecca Bentley and Housing All Australian’s Robert Pradolin who discussed the issues surrounding housing. We also worked with St Joseph’s College on their Affordable Housing Project. Following on from those two events, we have kick-started a working group to look at some solutions around housing,’ Chris said.
‘Echuca Moama is not alone in facing a housing crisis – the entire country it battling to find answers to affordable and accessible housing, and we need to act if we want to keep our region as an attractive place to live and work. Other communities are working on this issue right now and we want to remain competitive if this field.’
Other ABS statistics released last week show almost 1.6 million Victorians live outside of metropolitan Melbourne.
Victoria’s population grew by almost 40,000 in the December quarter – the highest increase reported by the ABS of all the states. Over the year, Victoria’s population increased by 2.1 per cent to 6.7 million persons.
The labour market is also strong in regional and metropolitan areas – overall, a record 3.65 million Victorians are in work and Victoria leads the nation in jobs created last month.
Victorian wages jumped by 0.7 per cent in the June quarter and 3.6 per cent over the year – the highest annual growth since 2011.
Victoria’s economic outlook is strongest of all the states – Deloitte Access Economics forecasts our economy will grow by a nation-leading 3.1 per cent over the next two years.