HAPPY CAMPER: Bruce Loxton, from Kimberley Kampers in Ballina, with some of his happy workforce behind him.
HAPPY CAMPER: Bruce Loxton, from Kimberley Kampers in Ballina, with some of his happy workforce behind him. Brenden Allen

Region's jobless rate hits record low

UNEMPLOYMENT on the Northern Rivers has fallen to a historic low, matching national jobless figures for the first time in decades, a new report reveals.

The ANZ Economics regional report says our region is experiencing a time of great opportunity.

Kimberley Kampers boss Bruce Loxton agrees. The Ballina-based camper manufacturer is looking forward to an exciting financial future.

Business is going so well Mr Loxton said he hoped to employ more people, which should help enhance the most recent labour figures.

The ANZ report says unemployment on the North Coast has dropped from 7 per cent last September to 4.2 per cent in April, bringing the jobless rate into line with the national average for the first time in many years.

State Ballina MP Don Page cannot remember a time in his lengthy political career when our unemployment figures matched the national average.

It was not clear yesterday when the traditionally high local jobless figures had last matched the national rate.

However, there were plenty of people ready to speculate on the reasons for the improved numbers.

Former SCU economics professor Lawson Savery said the fall was tied to the many retired people in our region, boosting the local economy with their spending habits.

Northern Rivers NSW Business Chamber manager Sharon Cadwallader blamed the weather, saying rain over summer meant lifestyle addicts living off the dole were moving to sunnier climes.

"You can get different results, depending on how you look at the figures," she says.

Adding to the conundrum, the figures show the employment rate (the number of people with jobs) on the North Coast actually fell during six of the eight months between September last year and April this year, even as unemployment tumbled. At the same time the participation rate (the number of people either working or looking for work) also fell, rubbing nearly two per cent off the labour market.

Regardless, the report paints a rosy future for the region, citing strong economic conditions, despite high interest rates, growing demand for labour, a solid construction sector and a surging agricultural sector.

Mr Loxton said Ballina's stable workforce was a big attraction for his company.


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