THE CLARENCE Valley has bucked the national trend and witnessed a fall in unemployment.
According to figures released by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, there were 279 fewer unemployed people in the Valley in June this year than at the same time in 2011.
This drop has not been caused by people leaving the Valley, as the labour force, which is the total number of people who can work, has fallen by only 14.
That said, the Valley still has a higher rate of unemployment than the national average, but while Australia-wide figures appear to be heading upward, our local rate of unemployment is trending down.
State MP for Clarence Chris Gulaptis was very keen to respond to some good news.
"Fourteen workers leaving the Clarence and 279 new jobs created are outstanding numbers," said Mr Gulaptis. "This is a very good news story at a time when everyone is concerned about jobs.
"The Valley is often undersold on business and employment opportunities and these numbers clearly demonstrate that the Clarence Valley is open for business."
Interestingly, the figures did not show a spike in unemployment when about 100 abattoir workers lost their jobs in November 2011.
Neither did they show a spike when 108 jail workers recently lost their jobs.
Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin said that the lower unemployment figures represented an encouraging trend, particularly given the recent setbacks we have experienced in Grafton, notably the downsizing of the jail.
"It's something positive which we can utilise as the local community responds to such challenges," Ms Saffin said.
"It clearly shows that there is a very strong entrepreneurial and business spirit in the Jacaranda City.
"Local residents and the Clarence Valley Council tell me that the significant amount of community infrastructure I have secured for Grafton and other towns in the Clarence Valley has helped to protect local jobs and create new jobs."
Ms Saffin said local employment co-ordinator for the Richmond-Tweed and Clarence Valley Terry Watson kept her updated on a range of projects aimed at supporting local industries and building the skills of our local workforce.
Of course it is difficult to say whether or not these figures are an absolute reflection of reality, as unemployment figures are quite selective in terms of who they identify as not having a job.
According to Professor of Economics at Newcastle University, Bill Mitchell, while unemployment may have fallen, the participation rate has fallen also.
Professor Mitchell's argument is that unemployment figures only take into account people who are actively looking for work.
They ignore people who are under-employed and unable to get enough hours and they also ignore those people who have stopped seeking work.
"You can't be beguiled by a falling unemployment rate because in the case of Grafton the participation rate has fallen," said Prof Mitchell.
"It is likely that the unemployment rate is falling because people are giving up looking for work."
Prof Mitchell's assertions are made by comparing figures from a number of different government agencies rather than one complete set of data, however, many key business analysts still refer closely to such indicators when they are analysing an area's economy and this can only be positive for the Valley.
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