Industry and employment

There were more than 230,000 local jobs in the Hunter region in 2011, representing 23% of the Regional New South Wales total.

Coinciding with the mining boom, employment in the Hunter region grew at more than twice the rate of Regional NSW between 2006 to 2011 (11% compared with 4%). The highest jobs growth came from the mining sector, even though it is not the region's most significant employer by size. More recently however employment in the mining sector has come under pressure as global coal prices have softened. The services sectors – including Health Care and Social Assistance and Retail Trade – collectively employ most people in both the region and the State. The knowledge economy also helps drive employment in smaller service sectors such as Professional, Scientific and Technical Services and Financial and Insurance Services. Together they account for around 9% of jobs.

The manufacturing sector is a major regional employer and key economic driver, with local industry specialising in metals processing, transport, machinery and equipment manufacture, chemical processing and defence. Key defence companies, such as Boeing, BAE Systems, Thales, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are well established in the region.

The Hunter's accessibility and wide range of activities all help to drive its tourism sector. The visitor economy attracts over eight million tourists every year, contributing to strong employment growth in the Accommodation and Food Services, and Retail Trade sectors. The region has one of Australia's oldest and largest wine producing areas and is home to the niche Hunter equine industry (the second largest thoroughbred breeding region in the world). Dedicated research and innovation centres such as the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) help drive the region's innovation and diversification.

Unemployment dropped between 2006 and 2011, with relatively low rates recorded for both youth and for the Indigenous population. Changing demand, recent downturns in commodity prices and a relatively high Australian dollar saw GRP growth in mining decline between 2011 and 2013.

Ongoing structural changes saw growth slow in manufacturing during the same period. Growing the region's diverse industries and markets will help the region become more resilient to global changes, easing the impacts of structural adjustment.