Where are all Cairns’ young workers?

We didn’t have time to look at the youth unemployment data from the ABS on Thursday until today. The headline (and wildly volatile) un-adjusted data for January showed an increase in the unemployment rate of 15-24 year olds at 24.9% (up from 23.9% in Dec), a sharp fall in Participation (to 58.8 from 65.7) and a lose of 700 youth jobs. However, these headline numbers are as good as useless when considered alone. We must consider the Conus Trend series and here we see a small improvement in the unemployment rate.

The Conus Trend unemployment rate fell from 22.5% to 21.5% after an upward revision in December. Trend employment remained unchanged at 11,900. However, it is a shocking fact that (on a Conus Trend basis) the number of young people employed in Cairns has almost halved in the past three years (see second graph below).

Clearly something dramatic was happening with youth employment during 2012. As the first graph makes very clear we had a step-up in unemployment from mid-2012 until mid-2013 since when it would appear we have settled at a new, much higher, “normal” of 20%+ unemployment rates. The shift since mid-2012 is clear in the employment data too, although here the trend is continuing to decline with no sign of a “new normal” level having been reached. Extrapolating from the ABS data to calculate population statistics for the 15-24 year olds we see a decline of just over 10,000 youngsters (on Conus Trend data) since Jan 2012 despite the working age population of Cairns having increased by almost 10,000 over that same period. There would seem to be something very strange going on with the ABS Youth employment data here; demographic shifts of this magnitude over such a relatively short period are highly unlikely. We shall endeavour to find an answer…..

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