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Briefing paper

Understanding local economic resilience: long-run income dynamics, Bunbury, 1980-2013

Income Regional planning Economics Greater Bunbury

The focus of this Briefing Paper is economic resilience. Resilience is defined as the ability of local economies to adjust or adapt to external disruptions or ‘shocks’. Generally, Resilience is measured in terms of job creation (employment growth), unemployment rate dynamics, and income per capita. For each of these measures, Resilience can be measured in absolute terms or relative to a benchmark economy.

Using data from the Australian Department of Employment Small Area Labour Market (SALM) and the Australian Taxation Office, this briefing paper aimed to answer two questions about the evolution of the Bunbury economy:  What are the long-run developmental trajectories of employment and income in Bunbury?  How resilient is Bunbury to changes in the external social, economic, and policy environment? Over the past thirty years:  the average real wage in Bunbury was $45,955, which was lower than the Western Australian average of $47,245.  Bunbury experienced an average rate of real wage inflation of approximately 2.0% per annum. This compares to an average growth rate across Western Australia of 1.9% per annum.

Based upon the econometric modelling conducted in this briefing paper the evidence is clear and distinct:  The Bunbury economy has displayed Resilience in the face of external “shocks” that have buffed the locality in the past 35 years.  The Resilience of the Bunbury economy suggests that the competitive forces driving the economy are dominated by longer-term growth trends rather than short-term fluctuations and “shocks”.  Benchmarked against the Western Australian economy taken as a whole, the evidence suggests that Bunbury responds relatively rapidly to broader forces driving the State economy.  There is evidence that when disturbed from its long run growth path the competitiveness of the Bunbury economy serves to restore the local economy to its long run developmental trajectory.

Overall, these findings have the following implications for the formation of local economic policy: 6  Policy initiatives which are designed to enhance local competitiveness are likely to increase the speed of responsiveness to external shocks to the Bunbury economy.  Increasing the long-run developmental trajectory of the Bunbury will likely require capital investment in the structural competitiveness of the local economy. This briefing report is one of series of complementary reports prepared for each of the Western Australian Regional Capital Alliance members. These Briefing Papers begin to unpack the growth experience of each WARCA member, exploring the relationship between local and structural competitiveness is the subject of ongoing research initiatives.

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