Published on Oct 19, 2015

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The mining sector unemployment rate is nearly three times the national average, with 16.2 per cent of Australian minerals professionals out of work as at June 2015.

The high unemployment rate is just one of the findings in the 2015 Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) Professional Employment survey, the results of which AusIMM President Rex Berthelsen labelled as “confronting”.

It’s been a swift and bitter change of fortunes for the industry, which just three short years ago had an enviable 1.7 per cent unemployment rate.

The survey also found a troubling trend of long-term unemployment, with 30 per cent of respondents actively seeking work for more than 12 months.

Among the commodities iron ore was hit hardest, recording a massive jump in unemployment between 2014 and 2015 from 11.9 to 23.2 per cent globally.  The local outlook was bleaker, with almost a quarter (24.4 per cent) of Australia’s iron ore mining professionals out of work in 2015.

The job losses represented a significant brain-drain, which Mr Berthelsen said had the potential to gut the industry of intellectual capital.

“Many of us have spent our careers in mining and we have experienced cycles and job losses before, but few can remember worse times and as an Institute, we are alarmed at the loss of good people who may not return and can never be replaced,” Mr Berthelsen said.

“We are also concerned that a whole level of experienced managers is being removed, leaving the industry at risk of losing its ability to innovate and pursue continuous improvements in safety and environmental performance.”

See the 2015 Survey infographic for a snapshot of the results, or read the full summary for more information.

The writing’s on the wall, or at least in the spreadsheet

Each year the federal Department of Employment produces five-year employment projections segmented across industries and regions.  The 2015 figures paint a familiar picture; the decline in mining jobs is a reality the Australian economy will have to come to grips with.

Nearly 40,000 jobs nationwide are projected to bleed from the sector by November 2019.  2,300 of those will come from the Hunter Valley – representing a loss of 19.3 per cent of jobs from the region’s mining sector.

In Cessnock, the mining sector just scrapes into the top ten employing industries.  With approximately 600 people in the LGA employed in the industry, it represents 4.27 per cent of our 14,000-strong workforce and places ninth behind industries including Accommodation & Food Services, Retail Trade and Education & Training.

Explore the federal government’s employment projections here, and find out more about Cessnock’s economic profile here.