THE region’s job agencies are holding talks to find ways of cutting the south-west’s high youth unemployment rate.
Figures released this week revealed a 16.6 per cent youth unemployment figure, coupled with ABS data showing the region shed 5500 jobs in February alone.
Officials from South West Local Learning and Employment Network (LLEN), South West TAFE, Deakin University and Warrnambool businesses are turning their focus to the region’s poor year 12 attainment rate which they say is linked to the problem.
They are proposing a special forum to hear from the region’s young people what they need to get a foothold in employment.
“In the past where a young person may have found work easily for a gap year, they are not finding it,” South West LLEN chief executive Toni Jenkins told The Standard.
“That’s normal in an economic downturn, but these numbers are much greater.”
Key sectors that provide work to young people such as stores and or construction sites have been hard hit by the economy.
“When a young person leaves school and they do not go on to further education or training, they generally go into retail, hospitality or labouring.”
Ms Jenkins said a “local delay” from the global financial crisis had damaged building approvals and retail spending — the latter also suffering from the impact of online sales.
“But in the Great South Coast it’s well recognized that our year 12 attainment rates are too low,” she said.
Meanwhile, the ABS has stood by its figures that led some south-west leaders to question if they were accurate.
A spokesman for the ABS yesterday said he could “confirm that there were 65,200 people employed in January 2014”.
“This dropped to 59,700 in February 2014,” he said.
The state opposition was quick to jump on the 8.9 per cent unemployment figure, the highest since 2006 and a massive jump on January’s level of 4.5 per cent.
“It’s the largest noted job loss figure of any region in a month,” opposition treasury spokesman Tim Pallas said.
“It’s a pretty decent spike.”
However, analysis by The Standard of job numbers over the past decade shows a loose pattern of employment peaks and falls coinciding with the summer season — typically from December to February.
Ms Jenkins also said the figures needed to be seen in a “seasonal” context.
“We always experience a dip in jobs in February because of the link to tourism,” she said.
South West Coast MP and Premier Denis Napthine said 200 jobs alone had been created at Warrnambool’s Midfield Meat in February.
“Mr Pallas can try to twist, spin and distort the figures any way he wants but the facts are clear — the Victorian Coalition government is delivering jobs and opportunity for regional and rural Victoria.
“The fact is that the data shows employment grew by 4000 people across regional and rural Victoria in the three months to February 2014.
“This includes an additional 700 jobs created in Warrnambool and south-west Victoria.
“An example of this is the 200 new jobs I announced at Midfield Meat only two weeks ago.”