Far North's unemployment rate hits 10.3%
THE Far North's unemployment rate has jumped back into double digits at 10.3 per cent, twice the national average.
But the increase in the August jobless figure could represent greater faith in the resurgence of the Cairns economy, the city’s mayor says.
The jobless rate rose by 4 per cent compared to the same time last year, but when assessed over the
12 months, was a bit of a "roller coaster", Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Local Employment Co-ordinator Tamilyn Brennan said.
The 10.3 per cent jobless rate, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday, is the first time the region has reached double figures in seven months, and is double the national rate of 5.1 per cent.
However, the rate showed increasingly positive outlooks by those seeking work, Ms Brennan said.
"What we can glean from these figures is participation is up. More people are actually registering for work," she said.
Ms Brennan said the number of the people in the workforce had risen by 4400, and the region had not had a parallel rise in population.
"We have a growing confidence in the tourism industry, we’re doing better than the rest of the state," Ms Brennan said.
"While residential construction was still slow, commercial and civic construction is strengthening.
"People are seeing an opportunity to get back in the workforce."
"We have the Chinese flights coming up and that’s a market that is boundless."
Cairns Chamber of Commerce president Anthony Mirotsos said the unemployment figures were surprising given the recent strong tourist season.
"We need to see whether it’s a one-off or a trend. If it is a trend we need to look seriously at what changes there are and start identifying
solutions," he said.
Ms Brennan suggested that as well as those out of work keen to take up growing work opportunities, the spectre of redundancies may also be having an input.
"It may well be that partners of those who could lose their jobs are looking for work as a risk strategy."
Labor Senator Jan McLucas said she, too, was disappointed in the August figure, particularly after the downward trend in the unemployment rate over the past several months.
Senator McLucas is concerned job cuts in the public service will dampen the Far North’s recovery further.
"This isn’t exactly a boost of confidence for Cairns that will see us "back on track", she said.
"Every job that leaves town is another pay packet that won’t be spent in our local economy. The flow-on effects are worrying."
Ms Brennan agreed redundancies would pose "another challenge" in terms of lowered spending, but it could not be related to yesterday’s figure.
"It won’t be for another three to six months before we can really see effects from any redundancies made in Cairns."
Cairns Mayor Bob Manning agreed and said the high figure should not be accepted in isolation.
"We’ve had two or three months where tourism has been healthy," he said. "There’s optimism in the community that is converting into confidence."
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Job hunt: More people have registered as job seekers in the far North, which has had impact of raising the unemployment rate to 10.3 per cent.