Industry and employment

There are around 103,000 local jobs in the Riverina-Murray region, representing around 10% of all jobs in Regional New South Wales.

Over 27,000 businesses are based in the Riverina-Murray region. These businesses operate across a diverse range of activities including traditional broad acre agriculture and specialised horticultural crop cultivation, as well as manufacturing, retail trade, education and health care services.

In 2013, GRP per capita was $51,010 (up from $41,337 in 2006). This is relatively high compared with the Regional NSW average ($46,957).

Primary industries are a significant contributor to the region's economy. In 2011, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sector provided around 11% of all employment. In 2013, it generated over $1.4 billion (or 10%) of regional output.

The region's large tracts of fertile land and a sophisticated irrigation system – capable of sustaining a large and diverse range of agricultural activity – helped drive this output.

The agriculture industry is of particular significance to rural areas, employing up to 36% of residents (in communities of up to 5,000 people). However, between 2006 and 2013 the sector experienced only modest compound annual growth of 2.5%. The sector was affected by drought, poor commodity prices and pressure from the high Australian dollar.

The region has significant timber resources, supporting a wood products industry worth over $2 billion. Most of the rice grown in Australia is from the region's valleys. It is also one of Australia's largest wine producers and exporters, with over 50% of local product sold overseas. Manufacturing is equally important to the region, with an output of over $1.3 billion (representing about 10% of employment).

Defence manufacturing, timber product manufacturing and food processing are important sub-sectors.

Health Care and Social Assistance, and Education and Training are significant anchors of employment in the region, with increased demand linked to population growth. Combined with Retail Trade, these sectors comprise around a third of total employment and contribute about 18% of regional output (about $2.5 billion). In 2011, service-related sectors made up about 65% of regional employment (up from 63% in 2006).

The region's unemployment rate declined between 2006 and 2011 and was lower than state and regional averages. However, this positive trend may be partly due to a shrinking workforce and ageing population, posing challenges to the ongoing supply of regional labour.