Illawarra youth victims of jobs slump

Young people have become the victims of the latest slump in part-time employment in the region, according to the Illawarra Regional Information Service’s latest quarterly economic review.

The IRIS figures showed there was an 8.4per cent fall in the number of job advertisements in the Illawarra Mercury during the year to March with full-time job ads down 4.4per cent and part-time job ads down 13.8per cent.

The average yearly unemployment rate was 6.4per cent, down from 6.8per cent, but the youth jobless rate rose from 14.7per cent to 15.2per cent.

IRIS executive director Simon Pomfret said the rise in youth unemployment likely reflected a fall in the number of casual and part-time positions in the retail and services sector.

Meantime, the IRIS figures showed exports at Port Kembla Harbour increased to 19.8million tonnes, up 1.4per cent for the year, but imports slipped 14.9per cent to 11.9million tonnes.

There was also a fall in activity during the March quarter with exports down 7.5per cent and imports down 20.6per cent.

Production at the region’s mines grew 9.2per cent from 14.3million tonnes to 15.7million tonnes and mine employment grew 17per cent over the year.

However, production fell 14.9per cent and the number of jobs fell 13.7per cent in the March quarter.

Mr Pomfret said that was harder to explain.

‘‘It is unusual to see such an immediate drop-off when overall there are so many encouraging signs for the sector,’’ he said.

There was encouraging news for the tourism industry with the number of domestic visitors to Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama up 7.7per cent during the year, although international visitor nights fell 14.5 per cent.

Kiama had the highest bed occupancy while overall tourism expenditure in the three local government areas grew by 4.5per cent to $687.7 million.

Domestic overnight visitors spent an average 8.1per cent more during the year while day-trippers spent 6.6per cent more than the previous 12 months.

The best news was a 12.7per cent increase in domestic visitor nights in Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama.

Mr Pomfret said it was hard to pinpoint why international visitor numbers were down but agreed Kiama’s accommodation sector was doing well.

Mr Pomfret was generally positive about the future.

‘‘I think we have turned the corner,’’ he said.

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