The Regional Australia Institute’s (RAI) latest job vacancy report shows that regional unemployment has already fallen below four percent – the national target set by the Prime Minister last week.
RAI Chief Economist Dr Kim Houghton says regional unemployment dropped to 3.8 percent in December 2021, while job vacancies rose 36 percent over the year.
“In regional Australia, the over-riding issue is not finding jobs, it’s finding workers. With full employment in the regions, labour shortages are really starting to bite,” Dr Houghton says.
“While seasonal hiring patterns saw a 6.8 percent dip in advertised regional job vacancies during December, overall demand for labour is still strong, with more than 70,000 jobs available outside our metro areas,” Dr Houghton says.
The strongest demand in December was for professional workers – accounting for a quarter of all job vacancies in regional Australia – followed by technical and trade workers (16 percent) and community and personal care workers (13 percent), the report shows.
Dr Houghton says the easing of domestic and international travel restrictions is likely to increase the labour pool, but that extra policy measures are needed to increase the size and capability of the regional workforce, such as boosting regional education and training, as well as fast tracking suitable housing.
“What’s needed now is investment in the availability of quality post-school training and learning across regional Australia, as recommended by the National Regional, Rural and Remote Tertiary Education Strategy adopted by the Government in 2020,” Dr Houghton says.
“We are looking forward to working with newly appointed Regional Education Commissioner, the Hon Fiona Nash, in advancing this agenda.”
Ms Nash will be one of the speakers at the RAI’s Regions Rising webinar on 22 February, 2022, which will explore creative solutions to meet regional workforce challenges.
“Regional Australia also needs more homes of an appropriate mix for the additional workers it requires to meet employer demand,” Dr Houghton says.
The RAI will soon release a regional housing discussion paper that sets out key areas of consideration for policy makers and relevant stakeholders.
Dr Houghton will hold a virtual media conference on Wednesday, 9 February at 10.15 – 10.45 am AEDT to discuss the RAI’s latest regional labour market report and its implications. Register here to get your zoom link.