Yesterday, on the same day the December jobs figures released by the ABS confirmed a disappointing 2016 for the Queensland labour market (see charts below), the Deputy Premier announced the State Government’s new regional jobs program. Coincidental or not, the timing highlighted to me the relatively limited impact that jobs programs typically have on the overall State economy. The Works for Queensland program may well bring benefits to some regions through upgraded infrastructure and temporary stimulus, but the expected State-wide impact of around 600 jobs quoted in the media release is relatively minor when compared with total unemployment in Queensland (around 155,000) and an estimated fall in employment over 2016 of over 30,000.
There is only so much the State Government can do to influence employment through jobs programs, as by far the largest influence on the jobs market is the state of the economy, which I should note did appear to be improving for Queensland at least in the second half of 2016, due in part to a resurgence in tourism associated with the lower Australian dollar (see my recent post on job vacancies). Retail trade data toward the end of last year were also encouraging for Queensland, so I am hopeful for the first half of 2017 at least. That said, it is undeniable some regional areas such as Townsville are still under-performing. In my view, the best thing for Government to do is to minimise taxes and regulations on the businesses that we are relying on to generate the bulk of the sustainable ongoing jobs in the economy.