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Where have all the jobs gone?

Geoff Helisma |

Figures for the 2017 December quarter in the latest Small Area Labour Markets report show that the Clarence Valley local government area (LGA) has the second highest unemployment rate in New South Wales.

The Australian Department of Jobs and Small Business data table for the “smoothed unemployment rate” measures unemployment in the LGA at 10.1 per cent and rising.

Only the Victoria/NSW border LGA of Wentworth rates higher, at 11 per cent.

The average unemployment rate for: regional NSW is 5.29 per cent; all of NSW is 4.8 per cent; and, for Australia is 5.5 per cent.

Closer to home, the Richmond Valley LGA’s rate is 6.3 per cent; Coffs Harbour’s is 7.8 per cent. Lismore’s is 5.4 per cent and Ballina’s is 3.3 per cent.

Unemployment statistics compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Labour force status by Labour market region, reports an unemployment rate of 8.6per cent for March, down from December’s 8.7 per cent for the Coffs Harbour-Grafton market region.

The ABS’ figures show that March 2017 to March 2018 recorded a percentage increase in unemployment from 6.3 per cent to 8.6 per cent.

The Small Area Labour Markets data for the Clarence Valley show that the LGA’s unemployment rate has steadily trended up from a low of 5.7 per cent (smoothed figures) in the July and September quarters of 2016: December 2016, 6.35 per cent; March 2017, 7.3 per cent; June 2017, 8.9 per cent; September 2017, 9.7 per cent; and, December 2017, 10.1 per cent.

These figures appear to contradict predictions about the valley’s infrastructure boom – the highway upgrade, the Grafton and Harwood bridges, the new gaol and several small bridges, etcetera – and the claims of various civic and political leaders, who predicted great times for the valley’s unemployed.

The cover of Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis’s April 2018 newsletter is titled: Clarence Valley’s big jobs explosion.

“The Clarence Valley is in the midst of a jobs boom, due to the dynamism of local small business and huge …. government investment,” Mr Gulaptis says in the newsletter.

On May 7, 2018 Page MP Kevin “welcomed the creation of more than 6,000 local jobs on the North Coast in the last 12 months”.

“These newly created jobs have pushed our local unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent, which is below the national rate of 5.5 percent,” he says on his website.

In June 2015, when the LGA’s unemployment rate was 7.2 per cent, Mr Hogan said in a media release that he welcomed “employment projections that reveal 8,500 new jobs will be created in the Grafton/Coffs Harbour area over the next five years”.

In March 2017, Mr Hogan said at a media event at the Shark Creek highway work site: “This will be a regional jobs boon, with up to 4,000 workers expected to be directly employed across the Pacific Highway when works ramp up even further this year.”

Meanwhile, Former Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson spruiked the “gold-plated terrific news” in 2015.

“You can see the infrastructure boom is here and starting to grow,” he was reported to have said, and that it was “critical that we track what’s happening to our economy” during the “boom”.

He said CVC would “utilise” and “monitor” the council’s “Clarence Valley Socio-Economic Indicators” report “every six months over the next five years”.

However, Clarence Valley Council has advised that it has discontinued commissioning this report (last completed in April 2016) and ceased publication of the Economic Monitor in December 2016, as a result of its cost cutting.