Will Regional Australia get its 2nd wind on strong labour demand?

Rising business prospects and job opportunities in regional areas are giving more Aussies a bigger cause to pack up and move, according to a new report. 

The latest quarterly Regional Movers Index showed that quarterly migration flows to regional areas have averaged around 15 per cent higher in the 12-month period to September 2022 compared with the two-year period prior to the pandemic. 

Commonwealth Bank regional and agribusiness executive general manager Paul Fowler said it’s an “exciting time” for the regions. 

“Many regional areas are experiencing strong economic growth, creating employment opportunities for people looking to make the move,” he said. “It is encouraging to see regions with thriving industries, stimulating employment and overall economic expansion.”

The report — which analyses the quarterly and annual trends in people moving to Australia’s regions — also identified the top five areas attracting the largest influx of migrants due to their strong job markets. 

The top five areas that saw the biggest share of migration over the year to September were the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Geelong and Surf Coast, Illawarra, and Newcastle.

Mr Fowler noted that job markets in these areas have online advertised roles up between 30 and 50 per cent in the past year alone.

“For those LGAs experiencing the largest growth rate from capital to regional migration, job vacancies increased from 20-30 per cent,” he added. 

The report also showed that migration from capital to Australia’s regions in this “living-with-COVID time” has remained elevated, with a slight uptick of 2.4 per cent in the June quarter.

In terms of the top five local government areas (LGAs) recording the strongest relative growth in capital city inflows, South Australia continued to reign supreme — with the number of capital-city people migrating to regions such as Mount Gambier, where figures doubled in the past 12 months.

Other regions to see an influx of migrants in the state were Whyalla and Port Lincoln, which saw a 48 per cent and 55 per cent increase in regional movers, respectively. 

Western Australia’s Dardanup — where agriculture and infrastructure projects are driving growth — has featured in the top five LGAs for the first time by posting a 60 per cent increase over the year. 

The last entry on the top five list is Victoria’s Moorabool, posting a capital-city inflow growth of around 88 per cent during the period. 

Meanwhile, the report also noted that major LGAs close to the eastern Australian capitals continue to maintain their position as the most popular migration destinations for city-dwellers making a regional move.

When ranking the top five LGAs based on the percentage of share of migration, Queensland centres such as the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast remain the most popular destinations by numbers. The two areas claimed the top spot after receiving11 per cent and 6 per cent of regional movers, respectively. 

Greater Geelong in regional Victoria bagged the third spot, with 4 per cent of the regional movers choosing the area as their new home. 

NSW’s Wollongong and Newcastle secured the last two spots on this list, with 3 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively. 

Data showed that Sunshine State’s regional areas now account for the largest share of total net inflows from capital cities (37 per cent) in regional Australia, eclipsing regional NSW (26 per cent) and regional Victoria (23 per cent).

Regional Australia Institute chief executive Liz Ritchie said that the data indicated that “people are still voting with their feet”. 

“[We] need to ensure that regional Australia can accommodate this continuing trend — specifically around housing and essential services,” Ms Ritchie said.

She explained that the index, which is a quarterly collaborative report between RAI and the Commonwealth Bank, identifies growth trends and emerging hot spots that need new ways on how to accommodate the demand. 

Ultimately, she said that the index aims to help “rebalance the nation”. 

“Increasing the number of rental homes and apartments in regional areas and reducing recruitment difficulties for employers are two key elements of the RAI’s Regionalisation Ambition 2032, a framework to rebalance the nation and forge a more prosperous, inclusive and balanced future for regional Australia,” she stated. 

The new data brightens the prospects for regional property markets, which a new report showed have been rapidly losing heat due to the downturn sweeping the country.

Recent data from CoreLogic showed that Australia’s regional markets have now entered rapid declining cycles, led by six regions where prices fell by more than 6 per cent — weighed down by rapidly rising interest rate rises, persistently high inflation, and waning consumer sentiment.

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