Alarming employment figures

RECENTLY released unemployment statistics paint a complex picture of Gippsland but show a regional rise in jobless figures of almost two per cent over the past four months.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed Gippsland’s unemployment stood at 5.9 per cent in February, a jump of 0.8 per cent from January.

The rate has grown steadily since October 2011 when it was 4.1 per cent.

The percentage of males unemployed grew by one per cent, up to 6.3 per cent and for females that figure rose from 4.9 per cent to 5.4 per cent.

Gippsland’s figure is higher than the statewide unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent – a figure which ABS data showed had also risen from 4.8 per cent in February 2011.

While the national unemployment rate stood at 5.2 per cent, figures released last week showed Victoria faced the worst scenario for job losses.

A Gippsland unemployment figure of just 0.6 per cent higher than the state average hides more alarming town-specific figures within the Latrobe Valley.

December 2011 small area labour market statistics from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations showed Morwell had the second highest unemployment rate in regional Victoria, at 8.4 per cent.

It was surpassed only by Corio in Geelong at nine per cent, and equal to Maryborough.

In Melbourne, only Broadmeadows, Dandenong and Sunshine at 12.1 per cent, 11 per cent and 11.1 per cent respectively, had a higher unemployment rate than Morwell.

December quarterly figures showed Moe’s jobless rate was 7.3 per cent while Traralgon’s remained well below the state average, at 4.2 per cent.

Significantly, despite the most recent statewide figures indicating an increase in unemployment, and Treasury forecasting further rises, the December quarter DEEWR figures showed unemployment rates had dropped across the Valley.

That data showed Morwell’s figure had dropped from 7.7 per cent to 7.3 per cent between the September and December 2011 quarters, Moe’s rate had fallen from 7.7 per cent to 7.3 per cent and Traralgon’s rate had dropped from 4.5 per cent to 4.2 per cent.

Those figures were the lowest recorded in the past 12 months for all Latrobe Valley towns.

December 2010 quarter figures showed Morwell’s rate was 10.2 per cent, Moe’s was 8.1 per cent and Traralgon’s was five per cent.

Employment services sources said they believed maintenance outage ‘shuts’ at power generators in the December 2011 quarter may have contributed to the area’s healthier statistics, though the nature of those jobs were temporary.

An Employment Innovations Victoria spokesperson said that while a jump in casual retail positions during December quarters usually translated to better employment figures, the availability of those positions in the last quarter was down by about half compared with previous years.

“In general though, the numbers of people we have registered are about the same; there has not really been a dramatic drop or rise,” the spokesperson said.