TASMANIA is developing a two-speed economy.
Beyond the challenging fiscal circumstances facing Tasmania, an emerging trend is for employment growth - one measure of economic performance - to be increasingly concentrated in the South of the state with a concentration around Greater Hobart.
This is bad news for Northern Tasmania. The region had 51,967 out of 211,549 statewide jobs in 2011, about 25 per cent; Greater Hobart had 90,953, about 43 per cent.
Nor is it good news for Tasmania. Most of that employment growth is public sector employment in service sectors. Given the present state of the budget this employment growth is unsustainable.
An analysis of the place of work employment data between the 2006-2011 Census periods illustrates the extent of this two- speed economy and the alarming reliance on public sector employment growth:
Health care and social assistance; education and training; public administration and safety all had employment growth over 2000 during the period;
The highest employment growth - over 3000 - occurred in construction supported by education infrastructure stimulus and first home owner grants;
Manufacturing lost 1818 jobs; agriculture, forestry and fishing lost 870 jobs; Construction added over 3273 jobs; accommodation and food services 1922 and professional, scientific and technical services added 1379.
The concentration of employment growth in the public sector was in the Hobart region, with 3507 new jobs compared to Northern Tasmania's 1316 and 1053 in the West and North-West region.
More alarming for Northern Tasmania's economy is the data breakdown at local government level:
Clarence (2055); Hobart (1400); Kingborough (1040); Devonport (639); Brighton (580) led the way;
Only four Northern Tasmania LGAs: West Tamar (568); Northern Midlands (308); Break O'Day (47) and; Meander Valley (42) had measurable employment growth;
Launceston (minus 432); Dorset (minus 318); and Flinders (minus 36) recorded job losses.
Launceston's jobs losses over the period are significant. Only Burnie (minus 612) exceeded Launceston in terms of job losses.
Launceston City is the economic hub of the Northern region.
In 2011, 32,066 of the region's 51,967 jobs were in Launceston: 62 per cent of the region's employment.
Job losses demonstrate the extent to which structural employment losses in key private sector industries such as manufacturing (minus 197), agriculture, forestry and fishing (minus 149) impact on the number of people working in the city. These are largely private sector jobs that have a flow on effect into the region's spending capacity, for example, retailing lost 362 jobs in the city.
Between now and the federal and state elections many aspirational claims will be made about Tasmania's economy. Some political parties will claim that Tasmania's economy is in transition, transforming to a creative economy. These are false hopes.
In 2011, Tasmania's old economy opportunities building on existing private sector employment remain: Agriculture, forestry and fishing (10,091); Manufacturing (18,612); Construction (16,106) and Retail (24,247).
Private sector job growth and losses in these sectors have a real impact across regions. Tasmania needs to start looking for the next significant manufacturing and agriculture, forestry and fishing private sector investment that can build on existing skills to support innovation to develop products and services matching global demand in highly competitive value-chains.
Launceston City and Northern Tasmania must be at the front of the queue when that opportunity is explored.
Tasmania can't sustain a two- speed economy based on public sector employment growth.
Dr Tony McCall is a senior lecturer at the School of Government, University of Tasmania.
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