A piece last week on the Cairns Now website, referring to our own analysis of the March Regional Labour Force data, made note of the variation in the data for males and females in Cairns. The Cairns Now journo was relying on the unadjusted ABS data as there has been no Trend data calculated for the different sexes. We decided to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon putting that omission right and have now created Conus Trend series for Males and Females in the Cairns region.
(Note that the sum of male and female Trend numbers may not precisely match the Conus Trend total data due to roundings and some minor differences in the way that the series are calculated, particularly with regard to numbers employed.)
Having crunched the numbers what we see, as shown on the graph below, is that the situation for female workers has been showing a different track to that for males over the past few months. While the Female Trend Unemployment Rate was 6.2% in Mar it has actually been rising since last July. The Male Trend Unemployment Rate, on the other hand, is at 8.6% but has been steadily declining since October last year. As we might expect, given the smaller data sample size, the female series shows a higher level of volatility than the male.
The Cairns Now piece made particular mention of the difficulty that women appeared to be facing getting jobs at the moment but, while the unadjusted data supported that idea by showing a 2,200 decline in women employed in March, the Conus Trend series actually shows that there were 500 extra female employees in March (and 700 extra in the past 2 months). This increase, however, was not as great as for men who saw an extra 600 jobs (and 1,200 over the past 2 months).
Although both Participation Rates have been on a general decline the March Trend data showed PR for females at 54.7 (up from 54.4 in Feb) and for males at 65.5 (up from 65.1). Over the past year both males and females have seen declines in participation with males falling 0.8 and females 1.7.
So what does all this tell us? Women’s unemployment rate has been very low but has been trending higher in recent months. Part of the reason for the relatively low unemployment rate for females is the very low rate of participation, which has also been falling and therefore mitigating against even faster increases in unemployment rates. Males have relatively higher levels of unemployment, at least partly due to a much higher rate of participation. What this analysis also shows us is that the current slight improvement in the overall Cairns Trend unemployment rate (which has fallen 0.5% in 6 months) is being driven exclusively by males and that the very low Participation Rates seen in Cairns are largely due to the rapid declines in the female PR.
UPDATE: Mark Beath over at Loose Change (who has taken frequent in-depth looks at the gender split in Cairns in previous posts) has taken our Conus Trend series for males and females and dug deeply into it. What he finds is that the recent changes would suggest a shift back to a more “normal” level of difference between the male and female labour force stats with the spread between male and female PR rates now close to their 10 year average levels.