The Orana region’s unemployment rate is falling as agriculture, not mining, continues as its leading industry, a new report finds.
The annual State of the Regions report shows Orana’s unemployment rate fell by 1 per cent between 2016 and 2017 to 7.8 per cent.
Combined with an increase in jobs, the region, which has Dubbo and Bourke as major centres, moved ahead of many others across Australia.
Disposable income rose by 3.1 per cent per year in the past three years, catapulting the region into the sixteenth-top spot.
But its population growth was slight and is ageing.
The report, commissioned by the Australian Local Government Association, was published on Sunday.
Report co-author Dr Ian Manning from National Economics told the Daily Liberal the Orana was in a good position compared with many regions.
“The Orana region is one of those that has actually had an increase in jobs and a decrease in unemployment, which is not true for a lot of the rest of the country,” he said.
Agriculture continued to be the largest industry group at more than 7100 employed.
Dr Manning noted the sector was dependent on the seasons, but had been experiencing some favourable factors.
“You’re benefitting from a bit of a fall in the exchange rate and are quite likely to benefit some more if the exchange rate goes down a bit more, as it should,” he said.
“So therefore agricultural regions, particularly those like Orana where they’re actually adding a bit of value, food processing, abattoirs and all that, so that you’re actually exporting from the region, and it’s finished products that are going out, not just raw.”
Regions that were not doing so well were those that had been heavily involved in the mining boom, Dr Manning reported.
He said the region’s mines were going along steadily.
“So you’re actually weathering the end of the mining boom a lot better than say the Upper Hunter Valley, or even more, places in Queensland,” he said.
The region’s 3 per cent real growth in disposable income in the past three or four years was “good, certainly better than most”.
Population growth was at just 0.4 per cent and was predominantly among people aged 55 years and over.
Dr Manning contested that was perhaps the least rosy performance indicator.
“So I guess the message hasn’t got across that the Orana region is actually a bit more buoyant than people think,” he said.