Queensland Economy

A diversified economy

Queensland has a modern, diversified economy, supported by a diverse range of industries including agriculture, resources, construction, tourism, manufacturing and services.

Over the past two decades, Queensland’s economic growth has generally exceeded the national average. Economic growth is forecast to strengthen in coming years and, following the resources investment boom and associated ramp‑up in LNG exports, growth is expected to be more wide-ranging and largely in line with that nationally.

The Queensland Government is committed to strengthening the productive capacity of all sectors of the Queensland economy and improving prosperity for all Queenslanders. We are working to enable each sector to flourish and drive sustainable long-term growth.

Export Oriented Sectors


Agriculture, forestry and fishing (Agriculture) is a vital part of Queensland’s diverse economy and an important part of our State’s heritage , particularly in rural and regional areas.

Agriculture accounted for 3.5% of the State’s economy in 2017-18 and employed 63,000 people.

Just under two-thirds of Queensland’s agriculture output is produced in the Darling Downs Maranoa, Queensland-Outback, Fitzroy and Wide Bay regions.

Beef is Queensland’s most valuable agricultural commodity, accounting for over one‑third of Queensland’s agricultural production in 2016-17 (latest available). Queensland produces around 90% of Australia’s sugar, as well as a large range of vegetables, crops, fruit and nuts.

The bulk of Queensland’s agricultural commodities are produced for export, providing a significant contribution to Queensland’s foreign earnings.

Queensland exported around $8.7 billion of rural commodities in 2017-18, with Japan, China, India and South Korea accounting for just over half.

The industry is sensitive to several external factors including weather events, such as droughts, cyclones and flood events, as well as currency and price movements.


Queensland has well developed coal and minerals industries, and the natural gas industry has recently seen rapid expansion and transformation into a major international export sector. The resources sector is a key driver of growth in Queensland.

Boosted by strong coal prices, mining activity accounted for $38.8 billion (11.8%) of the Queensland economy in 2017‑18. Mining is particularly capital intensive and directly employed just 2.5% (61,000 people) of Queensland’s workforce in 2017-18.

The State’s coal and bauxite reserves are among the largest in the world, and are generally of a high grade and easily accessible.

Most of the resources produced in Queensland are used overseas. Overseas exports of coal, LNG and minerals accounted for around 60% of Queensland’s international goods and services exports in 2017-18.

Queensland is the world’s largest seaborne exporter of metallurgical coal, with total coal exports of 219 million tonnes in 2017-18.  A large proportion of the State’s coal is currently produced from the Bowen Basin.

A wide variety of minerals are produced in Queensland, with bauxite, copper, zinc, lead, silver and gold the most common. The largest concentration of minerals mines is in the region around Mt Isa.

While Queensland’s natural gas industry has been operating since the 1960s, the development of coal‑seam gas extraction and the significant investment in Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plants at Gladstone has opened the sector up to major export markets in Asia. LNG has become Queensland’s second largest commodity export after coal.

Tourism and Education

Tourism contributed $11.7 billion to the Queensland economy in 2016-17 (latest available). Around 9.5 million international and interstate visitors came to Queensland in 2017-18 to explore, photograph, film and enjoy our natural and man-made treasures and enjoy the artistic and cultural highlights Queensland has on offer.

These visitors spent over 90 million nights predominantly holidaying or visiting friends and relatives in Queensland (with other visitors conducting business or studying).

Queensland is Australia’s second largest tourism market after New South Wales, accounting for 23.1% of the national tourism output and directly employing around 137,500 people in 2016-17.

International and domestic tourism will always play an important role in Queensland’s economy.

Visitors to Queensland come from a diverse range of countries and from different regions within Australia. International visitor nights spent in Queensland have risen 40% over the decade to 2017-18.

This growth over the decade was driven by visitors from developing Asia, with visitor nights from China up around 400%, from Taiwan around 175% and from India around 120%.

While international tourism generally gains most attention, domestic tourists account for around two thirds of total nights spent by tourists in Queensland.

Brisbane is Queensland’s most popular destination for both domestic and international visitors, followed by the Gold Coast, Tropical North Queensland and the Sunshine Coast.

Queensland’s education and training sector contributed $17.0 billion (5.2% of total output) to Queensland’s economy in 2017‑18.

Overseas exports of educational services has grown strongly in recent years and is Queensland’s second largest service export behind tourism, worth $4.4 billion in 2017.

Students in higher education are Queensland’s largest source of international enrolments, with China and India being Queensland’s largest markets.

Similar to tourism, a key driver of growth for Queensland’s tourism market is rising incomes in Asia and increased demand for education in developing Asia, particularly China and India. These factors, along with a competitive currency exchange rate, are expected to contribute to continued strong growth in overseas education exports.

Major Domestic Oriented Service Sectors

Health and Social Assistance

The health care and social assistance (Health) industry contributed $24.7 billion (7.5%) to the Queensland economy in 2017-18.

This sector has been the major contributor to Queensland’s economic growth over the past decade, growing (in real terms) by approximately 67%, and is a key part of the State’s services based economy.

Health is the State’s largest employer, with more than 350,000 people working in the industry in 2017-18. This is almost 90,000 more than the next largest employing industry (retail trade).

Job opportunities in health care are expected to continue to increase in coming years due to the aging population, increased demand for health services (which is occurring across all age cohorts) and as Queensland transitions to the full implementation of National Disability Insurance Scheme which will formalise a range of care services.


Construction is a key driver of the Queensland economy.

As the State’s third largest employer, the sector employed 239,000 workers in 2017‑18.

It also accounted for $29.0 billion (or 8.8%) of the Queensland economy (the second largest contribution to total State output behind mining) in 2017-18.

There are three broad classes of construction:

  • engineering construction, including mines, ports, roads, bridges, rail and other infrastructure;
  • non-residential building, such as shops, offices, factories, hospitals, churches theatres and schools; and
  • residential building of new houses, units, apartments and renovations.

Engineering construction work done totalled $21.2 billion in 2017-18 and non-residential construction work done totalled $7.5 billion in that year.

Queensland’s non‑residential construction activity, and engineering construction in particular, was dominated by the construction of three large LNG plants at Gladstone in recent years. However, with these projects completing in late 2016, growth has shifted towards non‑resource investment such as education and tourism facilities and a range of renewable energy projects, including wind and solar.

New residential construction work done totalled almost $11.6 billion in 2017-18, consisting of $6.8 billion worth of new detached houses, $4.8 billion of other dwellings, such as apartments and townhouses. In addition, Queenslanders undertook $1.5 billion worth of residential renovation activity.

A key feature of Queensland’s residential market in recent years has been the shift towards building apartments, particularly in the South East, which drove dwelling investment up almost 40% over the five years to 2017-18.


Retail trade contributed $15.2 billion (4.6%) to the Queensland economy in 2017-18.

This sector is very labour intensive, being the second largest employer, but only the 11th largest by output.

Retail employs around 262,000 workers in Queensland and is one of only two industries where part‑time employees outnumber full‑time positions. The sector offers a range of skilled and unskilled work and provides considerable opportunities for young workers to enter the labour market for the first time.

The retail sector across Australia has been influenced by the introduction of a range of international chain stores. This may have provided a net positive for employment opportunities, but is likely to be increasing competition and narrowing trading margins. This, combined with the integration of a range of technological advances, means a rapidly changing operating environment for Queensland retail.

Financial and Professional Services

Financial and professional services contributed a combined $42.0 billion to the Queensland economy in 2017-18.

These sectors have grown rapidly, having benefitted from a rise in demand of financial and professional services across a range of industries and from households. One example has been the strong demand for professional services (such as engineering, legal and financial services) by resource‑related business during the mining investment boom.

Financial and professional services have been important contributors to employment growth in Queensland over the longer term, with more than 230,000 persons employed by these industries in 2017‑18

Last updated: 28 November 2018