Illawarra Regional Information Service's latest economic report card shows 2013 could be a better year than 2012.
IRIS's September Profile Illawarra reflects a range of economic activity; some good, some not so good.
It showed export trade activity at Port Kembla grew by 6.1 per cent in the year to June, imports fell 20.2 per cent, job advertisements dropped 10.3 per cent, the region's coal production increased by 16.1 per cent, and there was a fall in the number of land, house and unit sales.
During the financial year 2011-12 there were 3468 house sales, 1502 unit sales and 481 land-only sales.
At the end of the year 187,800 people were employed, down 2.6 per cent.
Unemployment was up 0.1 percentage points to 6.7 per cent and youth unemployment fell to 14.3 per cent from 15.1 per cent.
Labour force figures released yesterday by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed the national unemployment rate fell from 5.4 per cent to 5.2 per cent in November.
IRIS executive director Simon Pomfret said the latest unemployment rate for the Illawarra would be released by the ABS next week "but after the restructure at BlueScope Steel last year it is encouraging that our unemployment rate has only been up slightly so far".
There were 5583 job advertisements in the Illawarra Mercury last financial year. Ads for full-time jobs were down 2.5 per cent compared to a 22.6 per cent fall in ads for part-time jobs.
Mr Pomfret said that reflected an ongoing trend but unlike other regions, employment in the mining sector grew by 12.2 per cent to 3874 employees.
On average over the industry, each employee produced 4300 tonnes of coal, up 3.5 per cent.
In the June quarter, overall production in the Southern Mines rose 28.9 per cent, the highest quarterly result since 2003.
Mr Pomfret said tourism was still doing reasonably well with visitors spending $703.5 million, but he put a significant fall in international visitor numbers and expenditure down to a fall in the number of overseas students.
During the 12 months to June, median house prices fell 1.1 per cent and median unit prices fell 5.7 per cent.
Trade activity through Port Kembla showed overseas exports grew 8.6 per cent because of coal but interstate exports fell. Overall, import tonnage fell 20.2 per cent but export tonnage experienced a record high in the June quarter, up 31.8 per cent on the previous quarter.
Mr Pomfret said there were some positive signs for the retail sector heading into Christmas with a slight improvement in consumer confidence and the financial position of households.
Confidence about their future financial situation rose in line with the improved financial position and Mr Pomfret expected that to continue after this week's interest rate cut. Fewer businesses reported weaker trading activity during the September quarter.
Mr Pomfret said it was good to see so many large projects under way.
He said the number of cranes in the city on projects such as the $200 million GPT shopping centre development was a good sign.
"We haven't seen that for some time," he said.
"With the hospital and other projects coming on there is enough on the board to confidently say 2013 will be better than 2012."
Major infrastructure projects included the Gerringong Princes Highway upgrade, and the bio-diesel plant.