UNEMPLOYMENT in south-west Victoria is at its highest level in a decade with new figures revealing a regional jobless rate at more than six per cent.
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows the Western District had an unemployment rate at 6.5 per cent in the year-long period between August 2013 and last month.
It is the first time during the surveyed period that the region’s unemployment rate has pushed past six per cent since 2005-06, when the social benchmark hit 6.3 per cent. Premier Denis Napthine said monthly data supplied by the ABS was volatile but the underlying strength of the region’s economy remained unchanged.
“I have full confidence in the south-west Victorian economy and from that, there are strong opportunities in the dairy industry, in the beef industry, services and tourism,” Dr Napthine said.
“Since coming to office, we’ve created thousands of new jobs in regional Victoria. The ABS figures come from quite a small sample size, so there’s sharp rises and falls every so often.”
South West Coast ALP candidate Roy Reekie said the rising unemployment rate was partially due to a lack of state government investment in vocational education.
“These figures are really concerning,” Mr Reekie said.
“If we’re at 6.5 per cent overall for unemployment, then youth unemployment would be at 20 to 30 per cent if we drill down. When the state government fails to invest in training through South West TAFE, when it fails to invest in renewable energy or the future of our dairy industry, then of course unemployment rates are going to rise.”
State Treasurer Michael O’Brien said the state government maintained a strong record in jobs growth over its four years in office.
“There are now 25,900 more people employed in regional Victoria than when Labor left office,” Mr O’Brien said.
Opposition treasury spokesman Tim Pallas said Victoria’s unemployment rate had been higher than the national equivalent every month for the past 12 months.
At a national level, the ABS data showed the gender pay gap had blown out to its worst point in two decades, primarily due to the substantial wages paid in the construction industry.
The average Australian man in full-time work earns $15,000 more than the average woman.