Border economy strong, but unemployment a worry

ALBURY-Wodonga’s economic resilience is being tempered by a higher unemployment rate compared with other large regional centres.

The economic snapshot contained in the latest Albury Economic Indicators at December last year reveals the value of the goods and services produced in the twin cities climbed $273 million to $5.04 billion in the previous 12 months.

The gross regional product growth of close to 6 per cent is more than double last year’s national figure of 2.3 per cent.

But the upside is offset by Albury-Wodonga’s unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent at September.

Even though the unemployment level declined 0.4 per cent in the 12 months to September last year, the jobless figure for the region remained at a higher mark than the national rate of 5.8 per cent.

In 2011, 65.3 per cent of the Border’s population was in the workforce age bracket of 15 to 65 years, reflecting an ageing population.

Other regional centres with unemployment levels lower than Albury-Wodonga include Wagga (4.5 per cent), Shepparton (5.4), Bendigo (6.1) and Ballarat (5.7).

Australian Industry Group regional manager Tim Farrah said positive economic growth figures should be kept in perspective against the backdrop of relatively high unemployment locally.

“Local businesses are far from their maximum output levels that will bring about an increase in employment,” he said.

“We are still seeing a lot of under-employment with firms having cut a shift or gone to a four-day week.

“But a lot of regions are still going in the other direction and would be envious of these results.”

The biggest sector in the Albury-Wodonga workforce is health and social assistance with 5641 jobs, followed closely by retail (4790), manufacturing (4765) and public administration and safety (4171).

They represent almost 50 per cent of the twin cities’ employment and generate $1.3 billion in wages.

In a further boost, most sectors experienced growth in the past 12 months and with a string of major projects having begun, including the $70 million regional cancer centre, the Border economy is expected to remain buoyant in the short-term.

The number of residential construction certificates issued in Albury rose slightly in the 2012-13 financial year to 637, and their value was a seven-year high of $90.8 million.

The value of non-residential construction certificates in Albury fell to $38.6 million from the pre-global financial crisis high of $77.1 million in 2008-09.

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