The Riverina’s unemployment rate has risen to 5.1 per cent, the highest figure in more than three years.
The data, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, shows a steady increase in unemployment across the past two years and equates to a loss of about 2500 full-time jobs.
Men are almost twice as likely to be out of work than women, with 6.4 per cent unemployment, up from 2.7 per cent in July, 2016. But women’s unemployment rates have dropped significantly in the past year, down to 3.6 per cent down from 5.7 per cent in April, 2017.
Sureway founder Judy Galloway said workplaces had changed rapidly in recent years and people were at risk of being left behind.
“There’s no such thing as a job for life any more,” Ms Galloway said. “There seems to be a reluctance from young people to take on apprenticeships that pay less than casual rates, but then we’ve got a real shortage of tradespeople. The casual rate of employment is quite high and it’s just not sustainable.”
Employers offering administration roles were receiving more than 100 applications, while “blue collar” businesses were crying out for trades, according to Rhyley Hunter from Wagga Recruitment. He said the skills shortage was keenly felt in Wagga, but encouraged applicants to stay positive.
“It’s incredible the number of people applying for roles,” Mr Hunter said. “But as hard as unemployment can be, even if you’re hurting you can’t let that negativity impact your prospects.”
Wagga Business Chamber vice president Daniel Donebus said global changes in the labour market – such as increasing automation and online shopping – were having an impact in the Riverina.
“There’s a transition happening and a lag because of structural changes in the economy,” he said. “But if we work on promoting business locally and supporting (governmental) improvements in the economy, then the demand for labour will see people rise to the occasion.”