Cairns unemployment rate up; but the headline hides a slightly stronger story

The ABS this morning released the regional labour force data. As always when considering this unadjusted series, we need to look at the underlying Conus Trend if we are to make any sense of the numbers. What we see here is a Conus Trend Unemployment Rate in Cairns that has lifted to 8.4% in July (from a revised 8.3% in June). That puts Cairns in 4th place in the state behind Wide Bay (9.1%), Logan-Beaudesert (8.7%) and Fitzroy (8.6%). However, that headline hides a much story than previously, and that relates to Trend Employment.

In Cairns in July the Conus Trend suggests an extra 200 in jobs (after June was revised from a 100 loss to a 200 gain) with total new jobs since the start of the year now at 4,400; an average rate of over 600 per month. While jobs growth in recent months has been slower than that average, we are still seeing positive growth. The reason this is not being reflected in a lowering Trend Unemployment Rate is that Trend Participation has risen strongly to 61.4 after June was revised up from 61.0. If we consider the Trend Employment/Working Population measure we see a sharp improvement over the year from 54.6 to 56.3 currently (see the graph below). The labour market in Cairns is actually somewhat stronger than the headline unemployment rate data would seem to suggest (although clearly there is much to do!).



To our south things are looking distinctly weaker. In Townsville the Conus Trend Unemployment Rate for July rose to 8.3% (after June was revised from 7.6% to 8.1%) with further job losses of 1,000 (after 1,400 lost in June). Over the course of the year Trend Employment in Townsville has fallen by 6,800 while a decline in the Trend Participation Rate from 67.6 to 62.8 has mitigated against much greater increases in the Trend Unemployment rate. The graph above makes clear the slide that Townsville has been in since the start of this year.

Digging deeper into the Cairns data shows us a Trend Youth Unemployment Rate of 20.0% (down from 20.6% in June, which was revised from 19.3%) with an extra 100 in jobs. Here again we are seeing gradual improvement, albeit at a very slow pace. The Trend Youth Unemployment Rate has fallen from 22.8% at the end of last year. The charts below show the very slow progress being made with youth employment barely recovering from a very low base.



When we consider the gender split in Cairns we see male Trend Unemployment at 9.8% (up from 9.6%) with females at 6.7% (from 6.9%). The Trend data suggests that what jobs growth we have seen this year has come predominantly from females at a ratio of 2:1.

The complete Conus Trend Labour Force data for all the QLD regions is avalable for download. Please feel free to use this data but kindly acknowledge Conus if you do so.

QLD Regions Jobs data – Conus Trend July 2015

The Cairns Male and Female Conus Trend data is available on request.


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