Moira among shires leading Victorian unemployment

By Jessica Ball

The Shepparton region – which includes Moira Shire, City of Greater Shepparton and Campaspe Shire – has suffered the biggest drop in employment in rural and regional Victoria, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

The number of people employed in the region dropped by more than 4500 over the month to June.

It puts the unemployment rate at 6.6 per cent (to June), an increase of 4.4 per cent compared to the 2019 June figures.

Youth employment (15 to 24) was hit hardest with figures showing the region's unemployment rate sits about 30 per cent — the highest in regional Victoria.

It's a one month change of 14.3 per cent, and a total youth unemployment rise of nine per cent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ABS data says a little over 11,000 young people were employed in February, but to June the number had decreased 5550 across the three shires.

Moira Shire Council economic development manager Austin Ley said data from Remplan showed the impact the first wave of restrictions had on local industries.

He said the figures would not yet show the true impact the Victorian-NSW border closure and the return to stage three lockdown could have on employment.

“In Moira, prior to COVID-19 and the introduction of social lockdown measures to manage the pandemic, the total employment across all local industry sectors was estimated at 10,913,” Mr Ley said.

“For May 2020, total employment is estimated at 9584, a fall of 12.2 per cent.”

Mr Ley said the most significantly impacted sectors were accommodation and food services, down 35 per cent and retail, down 23 per cent.

“The retail and tourism sectors, already are suffering significantly from the restrictions, were further hit by the recent Melbourne lockdown and border closures,” he said.

“The retail exceptions are supermarkets and hardware stores, which are still going well.

“In addition car dealerships and other automotive service industries such as panel beaters and car servicing are experiencing a major down turn.”

The agriculture industry is proving to be a beacon of hope and Mr Ley said major new players had invested heavily in the area.

“In stark contrast and a major positive for Moira Shire, is the that the farm sector had its best autumn break for 20 years and generally has a renewed sense of confidence,” he said.

“The protected horticulture sector and agricultural related manufacturing sectors are also going well.”

Mr Ley said Moira Shire Council had implemented a range of initiatives to limit the impact of COVID-19 on businesses.

These include workshops and one-on-one support sessions for businesses, a gift card campaign called Why Leave Town to encourage local tourism and a program connecting young people and with employers.