The regional labour market data from the ABS released today shows the unadjusted, original unemployment rate in Cairns stood at 7.2% (down from 8.7%) in August. However, as always the raw unadjusted ABS data is far too volatile to take seriously on a month-by-month basis. Rather we should focus our analysis on the Conus Trend series.
The Conus Trend shows Cairns losing 200 from the number employed with July also revised lower. However, despite this fall in employment a sharp decline in the Trend Participation Rate to 60.7 saw the Trend Unemployment rate actually decline to 8.0% (while July was revised lower to 8.2% from 8.4%). If we try and “see through” the PR effect we can look at the Trend Employment:Working Population measure, and when we do so we see a decline to 55.8 (from 55.9 in July which was in turn revised down from 56.3). The graphs below tell us the story; while the headline Trend unemployment rate may be looking fairly stable, it is clearly just because of a decline in the PR. The percentage of the working age population who are in work is not recovering. During the course of this year Cairns has added a total of 3,300 to Trend Employment.
When we look to our south we see an even worse story in Townsville. Here the unadjusted ABS unemployment rate was 10.3% in August. The Conus Trend data shows us Trend employment fell by 1,600 in August after a 1,800 decline in July. The Trend Unemployment Rate has risen to 9.0% after July was revised up to 8.7% (from 8.3%); this despite a sharp fall in Trend Participation Rate. As the chart below demonstrates only too clearly, the Trend Employment:Working Population measure in Townsville has nose-dived recently and now sits at just 55.7 (down from 61.7 a year ago) and the first time Townsville has lagged Cairns on this measure in over 7 years. Unlike in Cairns, where we have at least seen Trend Employment growth this year, Townsville has lost 10,400 Trend jobs since the start of the year.
Cairns sits in 4th place behind Wide Bay (9.8%), Fitzroy (9.4%) and Townsville (9.0%). Two regions that have seen significant improvements in Trend Unemployment this year are Logan-Beaudesert (down to 7.7% from 9.6% in Feb) and the Sunshine Coast (down to 5.8% from 6.9% in Jan).
When we consider the gender breakdown of the Cairns data we see male Trend Unemployment Rate up slightly to 10.1% (from 10%) while the female rate fell quite sharply to 5.4% (from 5.9%) on the back of a sharply lower Trend Participation Rate. The chart below demonstrates the wide (and growing) divide between the sexes.
Youth unemployment in Cairns remains a concern. The Trend Unemployment Rate for those aged 15-24 fell to 20.8%, but only because July was revised sharply higher to 21.3% (from 20%). However, this data needs to be taken with a very large pinch of salt. The original ABS data shows a bizarre decline in youth employment to a level never before seen; employment apparently fell by almost 22% over the month! At the same time the youth Participation Rate fell from 56.1 in July to just 47.7 in August. There is clearly something seriously amiss with this data set. We shall have to see if this month’s bizarre data returns to something more believable next month.
The Dept of Employment will release their second quarter Small Area Labour Market data tomorrow at which point we shall be able to consider the employment picture at a Local Government Area level.
The Conus Trend data for all the Queensland SA4 areas is available for free download below. Please feel free to use this data as you wish, but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus is you do so. The Cairns gender based Trend data is available on request.