Encouraging signs of jobs growth in Clarence

EMPLOYMENT in the Clarence Valley has grown by close to 3000 in the nine years to the March quarter 2015, according to figures provided to the Clarence Valley Council.

Mayor, Richie Williamson, said the figures - provided by Lawrence Consulting - showed the number of people employed in the Clarence had grown from 18,563 in the March quarter 2006 to 21,582 in the March quarter this year.

"These figures show the Clarence economy is on the right track and the resilience of the local labour market," he said.

"They show the economy growing at three to four times the rate of population growth, even accounting for the global financial crisis.

"They also show that, despite some problems in particular sectors as they face the challenges of restructuring, overall the local economy and employment has continued to grow strongly despite these challenges.

"It puts the Clarence Valley in a good place to capitalise on the opportunities of the infrastructure investments over the next five years.

Cr Williamson was quick to mention major operations which have downsized or ceased operations in that time period. 

"The Valley economy took some hefty blows through the closure of the Grafton Gaol, the Telstra call centre, the Grafton abattoirs and downturns in the timber industry, but these figures show we have more than compensated for those losses," he said. 

"It is a very, very good news story.

With the Clarence Valley's unemployment rate sitting at just above the national average and lower than surrounding local government areas, Cr Williamson believes we are well poised to take advantage of economic influx from the bridge and highway works. 

"Ten-15 years ago the Clarence Valley consistently had some of the highest unemployment figures in the region and nation," he said. 

"At 7.5 per cent, the figures are now significantly lower than all our neighbouring councils, except Ballina, which has benefited greatly from infrastructure work on the Pacific Highway.

"That work is now heading our way, so we are well placed.

Cr Williamson said tourism, the relocation of State Government jobs to Grafton, investment in aged care and the relocation of companies like Pearson's Transport often went unnoticed, but their impact was more than offsetting the losses - at least for now.

"We can't drop the ball, but it shows employers are recognising the Clarence is a good place to invest," he said.

"One of the major challenges will be to manage the economic and employment impacts once work on these major infrastructure projects is completed in about 2020.

"Projects like the Whiddon Aged Care development, with an estimated annual turnover of $10million, will employ 25 people and add about $1.5million to the gross regional product, and the new gaol is estimated to have an annual turnover of $20million, will employ 149 people and represents a value add of $24.3million to the GRP.

"There are some other encouraging signs, and council will do all it can to keep the momentum going."

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