ABS data shows many workers are heading to Victoria to find work.
ABS data shows many workers are heading to Victoria to find work.

The slowdown in the mining sector has hit the State's population growth, with West Australians heading to Victoria for a chance of work.

In a fresh sign of the economic challenges facing the State, new figures from the Bureau of Statistics show a marked slowdown in the number of people calling WA home.

Last year, the State added 71,300 residents, taking the population to 2.55 million. It was the smallest annual increase in WA's population since 2011.

Population growth slowed for four consecutive months, with the drop being driven by fewer overseas and interstate migrants.

While overseas migration remains relatively strong, interstate migration - which has buoyed WA since the start of the mining boom - is set to turn negative.

In the first three months of last year, the State's population was swelled by a net increase of 2283 residents who had lived in another part of the Commonwealth.

By the December quarter this had fallen to just 244, the smallest increase in net interstate migration in three years.

The turnaround is being led by people heading to Victoria.

A year ago, the WA population recorded a net increase of 700 in people from Victoria.

In the most recent period, the State recorded a net loss of 235 people to the Garden State.

The slowing in population is being driven by changes in the workforce.

Separate bureau figures show there are now fewer than 100,000 full-time mining jobs in WA, the smallest number in three years.

These jobs are being offset by a lift in the construction sector, while a record 145,000 people are now working in retail.

Retail has overtaken construction and health as the single biggest employer in WA, while the professional services sector is bigger than mining.

CommSec chief economist Craig James said the economic baton was being passed from mining to other parts of the economy, with a flow-on impact to population growth.

"Mining construction is no longer driving job gains across the economy but rather the construction or purchase of houses and apartments," he said.

The West Australian

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