Cairns unemployment ticks higher but Trend is still down

Today’s release of regional labour force data from the ABS shows the unadjusted unemployment rate in Cairns ticking higher to 8.2% in June (from 5.3% in May). However, as ever, we really need to consider the Conus Trend series to make any sense of this highly volatile data.
The Conus Trend employment series shows a total of 700 new jobs (down slightly from +800 in May). {The original ABS data shows a monthly decline of 6,600 jobs after a gain of 8,900 the previous month; which gives us some idea of why the unadjusted data is of such limited use!}
The Conus Trend unemployment rate for June now stands at 7.6% which is a slight fall from the (upwardly revised) level of 7.7% last month. Trend participation remains unchanged at 61.5.

Looking at the Trend data for the year to date we see that the working age population has increased by 3,300 (ie 550 pcm) while jobs are up by just 2,000 (ie 333 pcm). The decline in Trend participation since the start of the year (from 61.9 to 61.5) is the reason that the Trend unemployment rate has managed to fall (from 8.6% to 7.6%) in that time. This story of job creation not quite matching population growth is repeated at both State and national level (see our commentary from last week).

Youth unemployment in Cairns has been a hot topic for some time and, as readers will be aware, we have taken issue with the Brotherhood of St Laurence using a simple 12 month moving average to portray the problem as worse than it is. In June we saw the headline (and highly volatile) youth unemployment rate rise to 17.5% (from 8.3%) but the Conus Trend series shows an improving picture with the unemployment rate in June falling to 14.6% (from an upwardly revised 16.1% in May). Even the Brotherhood’s preferred measure shows improvement from 21.7% to 20.8%; it will be interesting to see if there is any mention from them about that fact this month.


To our south things are not looking so rosy in Townsville. The headline unemployment rate there rose to 10.5% (from 7.1%) and the Conus Trend unemployment rate increased sharply to 8% (from an upwardly revised 7.6% in May). So far this year the Trend unemployment rate in Townsville has increased from 6.3% with employment growth of just 1,400. This is the first time since Nov 2011 that the Trend unemployment rate in Cairns is lower than in Townsville.

We have been providing Conus Trend data for Cairns and Townsville for a few years and are delighted today to announce the first release of monthly Conus Trend data for employment and unemployment rates for all 21 regions in QLD.

The full Excel spreadsheet with data from Oct 1998 is available for download here. We would be delighted to hear from readers if they find this information useful and any suggestions for improvement. Feel free to use the data (for non-commercial use) but please credit Conus when doing so.

Analysis of the full QLD regional data shows that Cairns now sits in 5th place in terms of its Conus Trend unemployment rate behind Moreton Bay – North (9.9%), Ipswich (9.6%), Wide Bay (9.2%) and Townsville (8.0%).

UPDATE: Mark Beath over at Loose Change has used the new Trend employment data to compare employment growth in the major tropical coastal regions.

1 reply
  1. Gene Tunny
    Gene Tunny says:

    Very interesting data, Pete. The trend movements over the last twelve months in Townsville and Ipswich are very concerning – possibly reflect worsening job prospects for blue collar and low-skilled workers.


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