Employment in the spotlight

JOB numbers have improved in the Latrobe Valley but youth unemployment is also on the rise, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data for January.

As the closure of Hazelwood power station and mine fast approaches the spotlight is shining intently on jobs in the region.

While there were about 6000 more people in total employed in the Latrobe Gippsland catchment compared to November last year, fewer young people are in work.

The youth unemployment rate has risen to 14.9 per cent from 11.9 in January 2016, with 2920 people out of work.

There are 7044 fewer young people employed locally compared to this time last year.

The Latrobe figures go against the state trend for youth employment.

Regional Victorian youth unemployment has gone down during the Andrews Government tenure, from 15.7 per cent in December 2014 to 10.2 per cent last month, from 18,880 jobless people to 12,494.

Opposition spokesperson for young Victorians Steph Ryan and Member for Morwell Russell Northe pointed the finger at Premier Daniel Andrews for not supporting the area.

“Young people in the Latrobe Valley are facing an employment crisis, but Daniel Andrews is doing nothing about it,” Ms Ryan said.

“Future job opportunities are drying up as Labor refuses to support jobs at the Hazelwood Power Station and in the Latrobe Valley’s forestry industry.

“Young people in the Latrobe Valley need jobs and hope for the future, but Daniel Andrews and Labor offer neither.”

Mr Andrews highlighted overall job growth in the Latrobe region, citing an increase in employment since late last year.

Employment figures showed a jump in the workforce from 123,300 in November 2016 to 129,300 last month.

“The facts are if you look at the unemployment data there were very strong improvements right across the Gippsland region; unemployment’s down and there’s something like 6500 almost 7000 additional people in work right across Gippsland including the Latrobe Valley,” Mr Andrews said.

“What I would say though is we need to be honest about the fact that we do face significant employment challenges in the Latrobe Valley and other parts of the state.

“That’s why we’ve set up the best part of a quarter of a billion dollars, set up the Latrobe Valley Authority, we’re working hard every single day to work with local businesses, to grow job opportunities but also invest in the skills that are important and the infrastructure that is very important.”

Hazelwood will close 31 March and Heyfield’s Australian Sustainable Hardwoods has slated 7 March for a decision on its future.