The Illawarra’s once dominant manufacturing sector has dwindled to become just the fourth-largest employer in the region, lagging behind healthcare, education and retail, employment data reveals.
Figures from the 2011 census describe a city in transformation.
The number of people who reported being employed in manufacturing slumped 25per cent from 10,630 in 2001 to 7902 in 2011, making up just 9.6per cent of the workforce, the Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.
The figure is likely to have slipped further since the census, which was taken before BlueScope Steel axed the jobs of an estimated 1000 employees and contractors at its Port Kembla steelworks.
But while the manufacturing crisis has hit hard, unemployment fell from about 9per cent to about 7per cent in the same 10-year period.
That was largely due to industries like healthcare and social assistance, which grew 45per cent to become the city’s largest employer, with a total of 11,020 jobs.
Education and training grew 27per cent over the same period, becoming the region’s second-largest industry with a workforce of 9124, followed by retail trade, which remained steady with about 8100 employees.
Professional services firm Cardno said the 2011 result was the first time in the history of the local labour force statistics that manufacturing was not Wollongong’s largest industry, reflecting the city’s shift towards a services and knowledge-based economy and the emergence of the non-profit sector.
‘‘The hangover from the global financial crisis, high labour costs and the high Australian dollar have hit the local manufacturing industry very hard,’’ its analysis of the census data said.
Cardno highlighted high-profile examples like the closure of OneSteel’s oil and gas pipe business at Kembla Grange in March, which cost 56 jobs, plus the closure of nearby pipe-coating businesses APC Socotherm and Bredero Shaw.
Cardno social planner James Flinn predicted the carnage in manufacturing would continue.
‘‘It is clear that manufacturing in Wollongong has declined and that, unless the Aussie dollar falls in value, local manufacturers cannot compete on price alone and will continue to shed jobs,’’ he said.
Wollongong has also seen growth in accommodation and food services, mining, and public administration and safety, while wholesale trade, information and telecommunications, and agriculture, forestry and fishing all declined.
Cardno said the healthcare and social assistance boom was largely a result of the city’s ageing population.