Nothing good in the regional jobs data

After the positive national and state jobs data for March released last week (see here), once again we are faced with very disappointing regional data in the Far North. The headline unemployment rate for Cairns is back above 10% (10.1%) for the first time in 2 years. The headline number looks even worse when we consider that the Participation Rate has also fallen sharply in March to 60.5 (from 61.5 in Feb). As always, we really need to see through the volatility of the un-adjusted raw data and rather look at the Conus Trends. Unfortunately these do little to make things look any better. The Conus Trend Unemployment rate for March stands at 8.9% (after Feb was revised up from 8.5% to 8.9%, and Jan was revised to 8.8% from 8.5%), Trend employment shows a tiny increase of 400 people (the raw data fell 1,900); this is perhaps the only bright light from this data…and it’s a pretty faint one! However, Trend employment remains almost 10% below the level of a year ago. There really is nothing good about these numbers for the region.
In Townsville the headline data looks somewhat better with the unemployment rate falling to 7.4% from 8.3%, but even here the Conus Trend series is not happy reading. The Trend unemployment rate was up to 7% from an (upwardly revised) 6.8% in Feb.
In light of the very strong jobs data we have seen nationally in the past 2 months, this data raises real concerns as to what is happening in the Far North. This time of year will generally see weak employment data (on the back of the tourism “off season”), but the Trend series should be seeing through this seasonal factor which makes the deterioration (particularly in Cairns) a real concern.140417

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