Job figures fall

LAST week’s regional jobs figures, while referred to as “steady” by the State Government, were “nothing to crow about” in Gippsland, according to the State Opposition.

Gippsland’s regional unemployment rate, as at the end of February, sat at 6.7 per cent, down from 8.3 per cent in January – the latter figure had signified a jump on previous months.

Opposition State Member for Eastern Region Matt Viney said the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed there were still “more than 20,000 fewer Gippslanders in work now compared to when this government was elected”.

Mr Viney acknowledged the last month had seen some “better employment numbers” but said the past year had still seen employment decline at “an alarming rate” with more than 7600 people losing their job in this region.

“Without a jobs plan, there will be no significant long term improvement,” he added, claiming the State Government refused to recognise Gippsland had a “jobs crisis” and was “doing nothing to stem the loss of jobs from the region”.

In his statement on the ABS figures, Treasurer Michael O’Brien said statewide regional labour force participation remained steady despite regions “facing significant challenges… from the Commonwealth Government’s carbon tax”.

Statistics in the same statement, however, showed Gippsland had experienced a 6.7 per cent drop in the number of people employed over the past 12 months, with 125,200 people now employed in the region.

Gippsland’s drop in “employment persons” was surpassed only in the Loddon/Mallee region, which saw an 11.1 per cent drop in the number of people employed.

Other Victorian regions, by comparison, enjoyed a boost to the number of people employed over the past year.

A 2.9 per cent increase was recorded in Goulburn/Ovens/Murray, a 4.3 per cent increase in Barwon/Western District and 10.4 per cent increase in Central Highlands/Wimmera. Growth in other regions helped boost the overall Victorian figure, but offered little joy to Gippslanders.

While Mr O’Brien claimed the latest figures showed the “fundamentals of the Victorian economy remained strong” and were testament to “the ongoing investment and commitment the Coalition Government has delivered for regional Victoria”, Mr Viney said the state was in a “recession” and there was nothing for the government to “be proud of”.