Are workers being flown into the city to take Townsville jobs?

Are workers being flown into the city to take Townsville jobs?

TONY RAGGATT, Townsville Bulletin

August 25, 2018 12:00am

Subscriber only

TOWNSVILLE’s jobless rate has increased, defying a resurgence in other centres and raising speculation that many jobs here are going to people coming into the region.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported regional employment figures on Thursday showing Townsville’s trend jobless rate increased from 9.3 per cent last year to 9.5 per cent.

This is despite a big expansion in the workforce and the cranking up of several large job-generating projects including the rugby league stadium and solar plants.

The number of people registered as unemployed has increased by 1000 to 11,300.

TP Human Capital director Clayton Cook said the labour market was improving despite the increase in the jobless rate.

He said some of the mismatch could be attributed to an improving participation rate but there was also evidence, with a tightening in rental vacancies, that a lot of people were moving to the city.

“There seems to be a mismatch between the skills in demand and the skills unemployed people here can supply,” Mr Cook said.

Electrical unions have called for an investigation into labour practices after finding unlicensed backpackers doing electrical work at a Collinsville solar farm and workers being brought in from overseas to work at the Ross River solar project at Kelso for $30 a day.

At Mackay, where record coal prices are firing the economy, the jobless rate has dropped to 3.3 per cent, while at Cairns the rate has edged higher to 6.6 per cent.

Economist Colin Dwyer said Mackay was enjoying low rental vacancy rates, while tourism, spurred by the low value of the Australian dollar, was underpinning Cairns.

Mr Cook said there were also signs the resurgent coal sector was impacting Townsville’s labour market with Bowen Basin mines sourcing labour from the city and considering providing fly-in fly-out services.

“Since the beginning of the year mining companies have started to target the Townsville talent pool,” Mr Cook said. “Because of demand, I have seen wage rates in the coal sector start to return to the level they were five or six years ago.”