Unemployment number baffling

CLARENCE Valley organisations have questioned new statistics that show a recent spike in the unemployment rate of more than10%.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics last week show the unemployment rate in the Coffs-Grafton region fell to7.3 % in March, after reaching a high of 10.4 % in February.

Clarence Valley Council environment, planning and community director Des Schroder said he was surprised at February's high unemployment figure and chalked it up to a possible statistical aberration.

"It says we're going down now, which is good, but the reality is I don't think we've gone up in the first place," he said.

"If you asked me two hours ago I would have said we were at about 7.5 % unemployment."

Mr Schroder said while 10-20 years ago the Clarence Valley's unemployment rate consistently ran over 10%, regular economic monitors showed the figure had hovered steadily around 7% for the past year.

"We were down to nearly 6.5% unemployment in December 2012 but we have jumped up a little bit," he said.

"Sometimes unemployment will go up (because it is) driven up by more people looking for work.

"We want to get the employment rate up but if it's because more people are looking for work it's good."

Tursa Clarence Valley area manager David Wiblen said if anything he would have expected the unemployment rate to drop inFebruary.

"In February a lot of people go back to university or school so you'd think if anything it would decrease around that time because they transfer from Newstart to Austudy allowance," Mr Wiblen said.

"That's a common trend every year and when you think of it, it makes sense.

"Most of our numbers come from Centrelink but there hasn't been a massive incline or decline in referrals."

An ABS spokesman said changes to sampling in the region and the fact the sampling size was relatively small could have contributed to February's high unemployment figure.

On a more positive note, last month's drop in unemployment has bucked the state-wide trend, which rose from 8.1% in February to 9.7% in March.

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