John Nixon has been having trouble finding workers.
The owner of Sandbar Restaurant and Bar and the adjacent Huskisson Beach Motel said its particularly hard to find skilled office workers.
A large proportion of his workforce are sponsored migrants who were sourced from Sydney hotels and he thought it might be a lack of migration that was adding to his problem.
"There's no new people coming into the country and it's been very hard to find Aussies who want to work," he said.
Job vacancies across the Illawarra and South Coast had hit a record high following unprecedented population growth.
Data from the National Skills Commission, which counts monthly online job ads on SEEK, CareerOne and Australian JobSearch, showed a more than 70 per cent increase in demand for workers in the region in the 12 months leading to March 2021.
And since February 2021 alone, job vacancies had risen by more than 15 per cent.
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Since March 2020, six of the eight occupation categories in the South Coast and Illawarra had grown by at least 70 per cent with trades workers, community and personal service workers, administrative workers, machinery operators and labourers growing by at least 80 per cent.
Shoalhaven Business Chamber President Jemma Tribe said not a week went by where she didn't hear from struggling business owners.
"They might have advertised a position three or four times and they still don't have suitable candidates," she said.
And the Shoalhaven tourism and hospitality industry had been hit the hardest as the amount of workers to service an increased demand of domestic tourists had been stretched to capacity, said Mrs Tribe.
According to Mrs Tribe, the issue may be caused by a reduction in uni students living in the region or because of the lack of skilled migration.
She said in some cases it's not viable to pay new workers more in order to attract them as many of these businesses have increased compliance costs due to COVID.
"They've had the most difficult 12 months of their life between bushfires, flooding and COVID so they're not exactly splashed with cash and it still needs to be a viable and sustainable business for them," she said.
Mr Nixon said the best way to fix the problem would be to first address the issue of rental affordability so that more skilled workers would be attracted to the region.
"When we do find people who want to work, the next impossible task is finding accommodation for them because there's no rentals," he said.
And short term rental platforms like Airbnb were partly to blame, he said.
The working from home movement has brought more people to the regions, ballooning prices of local housing and worsening rental affordability.
And some property commentators have warned the new residents will need to head back to the cities for work while others predicted the regional growth trend will be over in another two or three years.
A similar story is happening around the country with the demand for workers in regional Australia reaching record levels as more than 66,200 jobs in regional towns remain unfilled, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).
Nationally, the stand-out sector driving labour demand in regional areas is health care and social assistance, followed by public administration and safety, then the professional, scientific and technical services sectors.
RAI CEO Liz Ritchie said this was the largest number since records began and goes beyond the demand during the mining construction boom a decade ago.
"Back then, the overall economic situation was defined by the country's two-speed economy, with job ads narrowly based in the resource-rich states and industries," she said.
"By contrast, the current strength in the regional labour market is broadly based across all states and territories and occupations, with the greatest demand being for professionals and skilled tradespeople."