When it comes to unemployment, Queensland currently has the second-highest rate in the country, behind South Australia.
- Some regional areas of Queensland have seen unemployment skyrocket above 14 per cent
- Central Queensland has seen fewer, lower-paying jobs since the mining downturn
- Townsville’s unemployment rate has started to improve after five years above 8 per cent
The latest figures show the Sunshine State is sitting at 6.4 per cent compared to 5.2 per cent nationally, and far behind the economic powerhouses of New South Wales on 4.4 per cent and Victoria on 4.8 per cent, in seasonally adjusted terms.*
While those living around inner-city Brisbane are more likely to be in work, it is a different story across regional areas — some of which have seen unemployment skyrocket above 14 per cent.
Economists warn conditions may decline further if governments fail to encourage economic growth.
‘Outback’ unemployment more than triples in five years
In Queensland’s outback, the unemployment rate has remained above 10 per cent for the past three years.
It currently sits at 14.5 per cent, which is more than triple what it was in 2014.
Longreach resident Tanya King knows the stark reality of those statistics after finding herself out of work last year during one of the most testing times in her life.
“It was quite frustrating,” Ms King said.
“My partner had passed away, we had a business here locally and I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
She found a job as a wool classer after receiving training and emergency financial assistance from local organisation RAPAD Skilling.
RAPAD general manager Tony Rayner said while the drought has had an impact on outback towns, some regions were faring worse than others.
“The long-term drought certainly is impacting the sheep and wool sector, as well as the beef sector,” Mr Rayner said.
“The ABS datasets that are used for various demographics also include the Gulf [of Carpentaria] and Cape York Peninsula and even some of the remote communities.
“So the figures that come out of those areas can tend to be quite higher in terms of unemployment and sometimes that can have an impact on the percentages that are quoted for what people think is traditionally outback Queensland.”
Longreach resident Tanya King found herself out of work last year after her partner passed away. (ABC News: Josh Bavas)
Boom and bust dependent on major projects: economist
While unemployment rates in regions like Townsville and the Wide Bay are beginning to decline, they have largely remained above 8 per cent for the last five years.
Mackay and other parts of Central Queensland have fluctuated over that time but are now starting to increase.
Brisbane-based economist Peta Tilse said there was a wide range of factors at play, but different phases in the resources sector — like the end of significant gas projects — have had a major impact on jobs.
“That development tended to end around 2015 and now it’s production and sales,” Ms Tilse said.
“That’s all happening now, which is great for the Queensland Government coffers but there are fewer jobs in the region.
“Those jobs were quite high paying as opposed to what’s trying to take over now, which is tourism and hospitality — think of a bar tender’s wage versus a driller’s wage — they’re very different.”
She said there were a handful of major projects on the horizon, which could improve conditions but there was still room for improvement.
“The main thing for us in Queensland is the inland rail — that will come into that Toowoomba region and the Southern Downs, and is quite beneficial for that region,” she said.
“And then when we look at Central Queensland, we’ve got the Adani project so that’s obviously going to be a massive boost.
“We’ve got a lot happening in the south-east corner, like Cross River Rail and things like that, which is all good but we need to travel a bit outback.
“When you look at the employment trends, most of the jobs that have been created have been coming from the public sector.”
Ms Tilse says the inland rail will be a major boost for Queensland’s employment. (Supplied: ARTC)
Hope as Townsville unemployment rate improves
Clayton Cook from recruitment company TP Human Capital said north Queensland was showing signs of improving after years of difficulties.
“The last time we saw a 7 per cent [unemployment] rate was back in 2014 — five years ago,” Mr Cook said.
“In 2012-13, we saw the mining and commodities markets cool off a lot, and then that resulted in Queensland Nickel collapsing.
“At the same time, we had the State Government and local government reducing their budget expenditures and getting rid of staff … those [factors] impacted the Townsville confidence, and that created the last five years of economic difficulties.”
He said demand for workers was finally beginning to increase.
“Townsville has a very diversified economy — some of the sectors that are important to Townsville like the mining and resources sectors have started to improve again,” he said.
“Obviously there’s a fair bit of government investment into the region with the stadium, pipeline project and there are a lot of projects on the immediate horizon so things are looking a lot better for the Townsville and north Queensland region.”
The Premier and Johnathan Thurston at the new North Queensland Stadium yesterday. (Supplied: Premier’s Office)
In Townsville this week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the State Government has been focused on boosting growth in north Queensland, particularly in the wake of Queensland Nickel’s collapse in 2016.
“Unemployment has gone from around 13 per cent to around 7 per cent here in Townsville,” she said.
“Following the collapse of Queensland Nickel, we had an accelerated works program and also too we have been absolutely prioritising key components of infrastructure for this great city — $190 million here for the Townsville stadium, $225 million for water security (infrastructure) on top of that all of the flood recovery infrastructure and money that has gone back into the city get back on its feet.”
Marina Stoianovski plans to move from Melbourne to Townville to capitalise on improved conditions. (ABC News: Josh Bavas)
Marina Stoianovski is hoping to capitalise on the improved conditions in the north when she relocates from Melbourne to Townsville.
Ms Stoianovski is looking for a regional sea change and is currently on the hunt for a job before she moves.
“So far from what I’ve heard in Townsville, there are a lot of administration jobs, there are some venues as well that run functions and weddings so I’ve dropped off my resume to them as well,” she said.
“Hopefully it should be fairly easy to find something.
“I know a lot of people from major cities that love small country towns and more of that community feel.
“It’s a nice change of pace, that you do work but you feel more happy and relaxed.”
*July 2019, ABS labour force figures