Apprentice hairdressers Kayla Lamont (left), 16, of Ballina, Chloe Hill, 20, of Byron Bay, and Sarah Kemp, 19, of Lennox Head, give their boss Sally Clarke (front) the royal treatment at Headroom in Ballina.
Apprentice hairdressers Kayla Lamont (left), 16, of Ballina, Chloe Hill, 20, of Byron Bay, and Sarah Kemp, 19, of Lennox Head, give their boss Sally Clarke (front) the royal treatment at Headroom in Ballina. Jacklyn Wagner

Ballina defies job downturn

WHILE Ballina on the Northern Rivers has weathered the brunt of the global financial crisis, the same can’t be said for jobseekers in its Irish namesake.

In Ballina, County Mayo, the luck of the Irish has almost deserted them.

While the unemployment rate in our sunny Ballina has returned to near pre-meltdown figures, Ballina in western Ireland recorded a staggering 180 per cent increase in unemployment when compared with 2007 figures at the height of Ireland’s economic boom.

According to the latest job figures from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace relations, Ballina’s unemployment rate for the three months to September last year was 4.9pc, edging back to the 4.5pc of September 2008.

Our Ballina hit a 5.4pc unemployment peak in the three months to March last year.

Defying its laidback beach town reputation, our Ballina maintained an unemployment rate below the national average, which hit 5.5pc in September last year.

But the hardship faced byIrish jobseekers is a stark reminder of Northern Rivers’ recent past, according to Tursa general manager Ron Rathbone.

“Our sympathies lie with the unemployed in Ireland. In the early 1990s the Ballina and Byron area reached nearly 20pc unemployment. It wasn’t so long ago we were there too,” Mr Rathbone said.

Byron Bay still has Northern Rivers’ highest unemployment rate with the percentage of jobless hitting 9.3 for the three months to March last year, which fell to 8.3pc by the end of last year.

Lismore braved the meltdown best last year with unemployment rates actually falling – from 6.6pc for the September 2008 quarter to 6.3pc for the September 2009 quarter.

Unemployment in Richmond Valley Council areas rose slightly to 6.1pc in September last year.

Ballina Headroom hairdressing salon owner Sally Clarke did her bit for our Ballina during the global financial crisis.

She expanded her business into East Ballina and now employs eight people.

“The majority of young people here want to work,” she said.

An employee, 16-year-old Kayla Lamont, who door-knocked until she found work, said finding work in the area – even for young school leavers – was not hard as long as you were keen.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the Australian economy was growing strongly while the rest of the world has been devastated by the global downturn.

The national accounts released this week showed economic growth of 0.9pc for the three months to the end of December.



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