BENDIGO appears to have exhausted its supply of high-skilled labour and businesses fear more pain as the COVID-19 rebuild grinds on.
Regional Australian employment rates barely budged in the 12 months to December even as job ads ballooned by 36 per cent, according to new Regional Australia Institute research.
"There is a clear pattern of ever increasing job vacancies alongside roughly steady levels of employment throughout 2021," the RAI has found.
Job vacancy rates in Bendigo and the high country remained virtually unchanged in December.
It comes as no surprise to Be.Bendigo interim chief executive Rob Stephenson.
"This reinforces the stories we have been hearing from businesses in Bendigo regarding difficulties in attracting staff and filling vacancies right across the skills spectrum," he said.
Melbourne workers' pandemic exodus to the regions may have intensified the problems businesses face, Mr Stephenson said.
Those people might still be working their metropolitan-based jobs remotely.
"This is likely to be exacerbating the issue in the short-term, but as people settle into the Bendigo community, it is hoped that they will also look towards the added benefits of becoming part of the local business community as well," Mr Stephenson said.
For now, the exodus is likely making it harder for local businesses to bring in new staff. A recent Be.Bendigo found that members were deeply concerned about shortages of appropriate rental accommodation.
They believed that attracting highly skilled workers to Bendigo would be a major challenge in 2022.
The RAI's top economists said it was a problem throughout the whole of regional Australia.
Workers most in demand included white collar professionals, technical experts, tradies and those ready for community and personal care roles.
The good news was that at least some pressures on businesses were about to start lifting, the institute said.
Easing restrictions on international travel have already allowed some highly skilled workers into the country.
And low skilled workers could be enticed by new incentives are being offered to backpackers and international students, the institute believed.
There's also some good news for the federal government, which last week declared it wanted to keep national unemployment under four per cent, the institute says.
"Regional Australia had already hit that target back in December last year when its unemployment rate fell to 3.8 per cent."
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