Housing's the drawback

RETAIL workers, who count for the highest number of employed people in Mackay, will feel the pinch of our two-speed economy as housing availability and affordability bite harder.

The Regional Economic Development Corporation (REDEC) has released its latest economic snapshot for the region and it seems things are looking up.

However housing's rising costs and its long-term unavailability are worsening for the average Mackay resident.

The snapshot revealed that, out of the combined labour force for the Mackay, Mirani and Sarina areas of 66,126, less than 12% of people work in the retail industry, more than those in construction, manufacturing and mining.

But property rentals in the area continue to rise.

Expect to pay an average of $420 per week for a three-bedroom flat, compared with $400 last year.

A two-bedroom house will cost $390 per week, up 4% from last year and it will be $480 per week for a four-bedroom house, up from $450 last year.

"Retail continues to be our biggest employer," said REDEC Economic development manager Laura Sorensen.

"If you couple that with the fact weekly rents are continuing to rise and are very high and we have so many people in low-paid sectors, it is really widening the gap and making housing quite unattainable for people."

With $20.6 billion of investment planned and under way in Mackay, $26.8 billion in Whitsunday and a whopping $34 billion in the Isaac region, Ms Sorensen said the region must tap into any available workforce.

"It is what we call full employment at the moment," she said.

"We continue to focus on that 'hidden workforce', people who aren't technically unemployed by the standard definition, but they aren't working.

"We are really quite unique here in Mackay. There are plenty of jobs, there are great incomes out there for people with the right skills and the opportunities are there. We just need to manage the risks that are associated, pressures of housing, attracting workers and associated costs."

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