Want to double average  income in four years? For that’s exactly what happened in the WA town of Ravensthorpe between the 2003/04 and 2007/08 financial years — driven by the construction and opening of the BHP Ravensthorpe nickel mine. Sadly for the residents of Ravensthorpe, the mine was mothballed shortly after opening as a result of weak nickel prices — but it highlights the nature of the massive growth in incomes over the period in small WA towns that really stood out in yesterday’s ABS release Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas.

The ABS publication tracked several income measures across the financial years starting in 2003/04 and ending at 2007/08 for over 500 local government areas in Australia.  If we look at the top and bottom 20 local government areas for average annual personal wage and salary incomes for the 2007/08 financial year, it shows the usual suspects turning up — we’ll also throw in a histogram of the distribution of average wage and salary earnings for the 522 local government areas as well.



We get the usual Mosman, Woolhara and Hunters Hill-type areas coming in at the top, with a collection of boondocks coming in at the bottom. We also see a pretty standard income distribution skew for a country such as Australia with a longish right-hand tail.

But more interesting is the way average wage and salary income changed over the four-year period, particularly the geographical distribution of where the biggest changes occurred. If we first look at just the net dollar changes in average wage and salary earnings for local government areas, we start to see the big mining areas pop up as some of the largest net dollar movers:


It’s a pretty good representation of the boom sectors of the Australian economy over the period, with the top-end white-collar areas of Mosman and Peppermint Grove, etc, making the big dollar gains on wages and salaries, along with the big mining areas of the Pilbara and Mount Isa, etc.  Also noteworthy is that 12 of the top 20 LGA areas experiencing the largest net increase in average wage and salary earnings are in WA.