After a long stretch in the economic doldrums, Throsby MP Stephen Jones believes the Illawarra is finally turning the corner.
Mr Jones's upbeat assessment came yesterday when he unveiled details of a large jobs and skills expo to be held in Shellharbour later this month.
More than 80 employers including local businesses and mining industry representatives will scout for Illawarra talent at the event.
The forum will be a welcome opportunity for the many job-seekers who struggle with online applications and are frustrated by the lack of employer feedback.
Mr Jones said companies with jobs in the services, finance, hospitality and resources sectors would be among those at the expo, plus registered training organisations and labour-hire companies.
"Obviously we've had some hits to our local economy over the last two years," he said.
"We think it's starting to turn and we're encouraging employers who might be umming and ahhing about whether they're going to replace an employee or put on a new position or hire a trainee or an apprentice, that this is an opportunity to match that with a worker."
Mr Jones said he understood less than 30 per cent of workers who lost their jobs in BlueScope's restructure were still job hunting, but despite the progress unemployment was still "too high".
"When we conducted a similar expo in Wollongong in 2010, over 500 vacancies were filled. We hope to get a similar result," he said.
IRIS Research executive director Simon Pomfret agreed the latest indicators suggested the region was now "going in the right direction".
"We're starting to see the unemployment rate flatten out, so it's not going to get to the levels that we thought it might get to after the restructuring at BlueScope," he said.
"The sentiment numbers are backing that up and I'm hoping that the next business survey that we're doing at the moment will show further improvement."
The jobs and skills expo is part of a government package targeting unemployment and skills gaps.
One of the organisers, Shellharbour government action leader Robert Meikle, said visitors could find out about jobs, training and education.
"In the past we've connected people to jobs on the day so there is a high likelihood that people will come here and walk away ... with a job," he said.
The expo will be held at Shellharbour City Stadium on Wednesday, September 26.
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