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Regional labour markets hits record growth – but still can’t meet job demand.

February 15 2023

Growth in the regional labour force surpassed the previous record levels of the mining construction boom a decade ago to hit 3.3 percent in the December 2022 quarter, according to the latest figures released by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

However, labour market conditions in regional Australia remain tight, with the participation rate at its highest in more than 30 years, at 71.4 percent in December.

“Overall, regional economies and labour markets continue to outperform metropolitan markets under these much tighter conditions. In fact, we continue to see historically significant milestones reached that have set regions apart,” Liz Ritchie said.

“Despite the fact that regional people are keen and engaged to work, and population continues to grow, ultimately, we still need more people to meet this historic demand on the labour market.

“The number of jobs advertised in regional Australia in October 2022 was a record peak of 94,100 roles. While vacancies pulled back down to a little under 81,000 in December, this is still nearly a 100 percent increase on pre-pandemic levels.

“The figures for our metropolitan cities tell a different story, where job vacancy growth halted abruptly in February 2022 and recorded only one third of the growth rate experienced in regional Australia.

“Regional unemployment has been tracking lower than metropolitan unemployment over the last two years, hitting a new historic low of 2.8 percent in November and averaging 3.0 percent to round out the final quarter of 2022. Historically, the reverse has been true,” Ms Ritchie said.

In the month of December, demand for labour was highest in regional Queensland with more than 23,800 positions advertised. This is up 17.5 percent on the year earlier.

New South Wales was only slightly lower with 23,200 roles. Meanwhile, regional South Australia saw a 15.3 percent increase in annual job in vacancies. Regional Victoria recorded a 9.8 percent annual increase, with Western Australia just 2 percent – slightly lower than the 3 percent increase for mainland capital cities.

The five regions with the largest annual jumps in job vacancies for December 2022 were:

  • Yorke Peninsula and Clare Valley, SA – Up by 33%
  • Central Queensland – up by 28.8%
  • Outback Queensland – up by 25.4 %
  • Tamworth and North West NSW – up by 25.3%
  • Blue Mountains, Bathurst and Central West NSW – up by 20.1%

To ensure Australia’s regional workforce is ‘fit-for-purpose’ in the future, the RAI has identified Jobs and Skills as one of the 5 key pillars in its Regionalisation Ambition 2032 – A Framework to Rebalance the Nation.

To achieve the goal within the Jobs and Skills pillar, the Regionalisation Ambition 2032 sets out the following targets:

By 2032:

  • Reduce the recruitment difficulty in regional Australia from 77% today to below 40%.
  • Increase the share of skilled workers employed in regional Australia from 73% as at May 2022 to 80% of the regional workforce.
  • Increase the Year 12 school attainment rate of young people in regional Australia from an average of 65% today to 75% or above.
  • Boost post-school qualification completion in regional Australia to 65% or above from 57% as at May 2021.

For a full copy of the RAI’s Regional Labour Market Update – December Quarter 2022, please click here.

The RAI will launch its first Annual Regional Labour Market Report at its Regions Rising event in Bunbury, Western Australia, on Friday 10 March.

For media enquiries contact:

Regional Australia Institute 
Amanda Barwick
Ph: 0429142232
E: [email protected]