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Where have the jobs gone? What our leaders said

Geoff Helisma |

The Independent sought commentary via email from Mr Hogan, Mr Gulaptis and Clarence Valley Council, regarding the apparent disconnect between the obvious increase in people working in the valley and the rise in unemployment.

Mr Hogan was asked: “You have been talking up the jobs ‘boom’ in the Clarence Valley over recent years and, while it is obvious that many people are working on the new infrastructure, the rise in unemployment in the Clarence Valley is now the second highest in NSW (using the Small Area Labour Markets smoothed figures); can you explain what is going on there?’

Mr Hogan: “After four years of the Coalition Government, there are now 996,800 more Australians in jobs.

“In 2017, employment increased by 415,000 – more jobs than any calendar year on record.

The Australian economy is creating, on average, more than 1,000 new jobs a day.

“Locally, the latest unemployment figures for the 12 months to March is 8.6%.

“This is a start but more works needs to be done to create local jobs.

“Part of the higher unemployment rate is the result of more people arriving in the region looking for work given the amount of infrastructure projects underway.”

Mr Gulaptis, who was asked the same question, responded: “The NSW Government does not create jobs but puts the settings in place to create jobs, like the public infrastructure investment that’s taking place across the Clarence Valley.

“At the moment we are seeing unprecedented investment in public infrastructure.

“The Pacific Highway upgrade, the new Grafton bridge, the recently completed Sportsman’s Creek Bridge and the new Clarence Correctional Centre.

“Each of these projects has attracted local employment and local contractors.

“There are over 2,500 workers on the Pacific Highway upgrade alone with another 300 working on building the new Correctional Centre. Evidence from a survey carried out by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) on the makeup of the Pacific Highway workforce between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour found that over one third of the workforce was local, being within 100kms of the worksite. This I understand is the case with other public infrastructure projects underway.”

On the subject of what happens after the ‘boom’ is over, he said: “The Clarence Valley is fortunate that once the infrastructure projects have been completed there will be the opportunity for permanent jobs at the new correctional centre with 600 permanent positions being available.

“In addition, the recent investment in blueberries and macadamia nuts in the Clarence Valley will also create well over a thousand jobs.”

The Independent asked Clarence Valley Council: “How is the council fulfilling that “critical” need [to “track what’s happening to our economy”], given that CVC discontinued the Clarence Valley Socio-Economic Indicators report (last completed in April 2016) and ceased publication of the Economic Monitor in December 2016, as a result of its cost cutting?

A Clarence Valley Council spokesperson said the council contracts Profile ID – self-described as “the population experts”, who provide “an evidence-base for over 250 local government areas in Australia and New Zealand” – to monitor economic and demographic information related to the Clarence Valley LGA.

This data, which is analysed and used by CVC’s staff, can be viewed on CVC’s website and is updated in real time.

Profile ID had not provided an explanation regarding the discrepancy between the employment created, due to new infrastructure construction, and the rise in unemployment figures, before the Independent’s copy deadline.