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The Wollongong economy

  • Wollongong’s economy is worth approximately $11 billion
  • Wollongong accounts for 58% of all economic activity in the Illawarra regions $19 billion economy
  • Wollongong city centre area employs over 26,000 people, which represents just under a third of all jobs in the LGA.
  • Wollongong’s population is 213,841, with population growth of 1.2% over the last 12 months; nearly double that of regional NSW.


  • Wollongong has attracted $1.5 billion in investment into the city centre in the last six years and there is $400M+ in the pipeline.
  • We have 15 cranes in the Wollongong CBD skyline
  • There is a current pipeline of 30,000 sqm of DA approved commercial space in the city centre and 900 units.

Small businesses

  • There are around 13,000 businesses operating in the Wollongong LGA, 98% of which are small businesses.
  • Over 110 new bars, cafes and restaurants have opened up in Wollongong since 2012.

Our largest industries

In the last decade Wollongong has transformed into a service-based economy, largely focussed on delivering household services. This shift towards services is an Australia-wide trend, but the adjustment has been more dramatic in Wollongong than other locations, as a result of an estimated 6,000 local job losses in the manufacturing sector between 2007 and 2018. This inevitably constrained Wollongong’s overall jobs growth, which averaged only 0.5% per annum over the last decade. This was below both regional NSW (0.9%) and Greater Sydney (2.1%).

  • The three largest industries, by value-added, for Wollongong in 2017-18 were:
  • Health Care and Social Assistance ($1,017 million or 11.7%)
  • Education and Training ($925 million or 10.7%)
  • Financial and Insurance Services ($802 million or 9.2%)
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The Wollongong Workforce

Wollongong’s city centre and the immediately surrounding suburbs is a critical employment area. It is home to around 26,000 jobs which represents 29% of all employees in the LGA.

Our commuter pool

Around 23,000 residents across the wider Illawarra region travel to Greater Sydney for work, with a mix of skills in both white and blue-collar occupations. These skilled residents represent a talented pool of potential employees for any new business looking to establish or relocate to Wollongong.

Unemployment rate

In the last three years Wollongong has made considerable progress in lowering its unemployment rate. In the three years to 2017-2018, jobs growth averaged 2.1% per year. Subsequently the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6% (as at September 2018). This result is below the NSW average of 4.8% which is only the second time in the last decade that the Wollongong rate has been below the NSW rate.

One of the key attractions for businesses considering moving to Wollongong is access to a highly skilled multilingual workforce.

Over 83,000 people employed within the LGA, with Professionals; Clerical and Administrative Workers; Technicians and Trade Workers; Community and Personal Service Workers; and Managers making up the top five occupations.

Wollongong’s workforce is highly educated, with around two thirds of the workforce holding tertiary qualifications. Since 2011, Wollongong has seen the number of workers with a Bachelor degree or higher increase by nearly one third.

Employment for the surrounding region

As the regional capital of the Illawarra, Wollongong plays an important role in providing employment opportunities for both residents of Wollongong and the surrounding region. Wollongong provides jobs for 43% of employees from Shellharbour and 23% from Kiama.

This role as the regional capital reinforces the need for Wollongong to increase its job generation capability, for the benefit of both residents of the Wollongong Local Government Area (LGA) and residents of the broader Illawarra region. In addition, more than half (60%) of the total value of economic activity (as measured by Gross Regional Product) in the Illawarra occurs within the Wollongong LGA.

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