Not much joy in regional jobs data although Cairns Youth shows some positives

The release this morning by the ABS of their regional (unadjusted) labour force data for Oct doesn’t appear to change the picture much for the Far North, despite the improvements we saw at national and state level last week (see here for our commentary). As always the raw ABS data is highly volatile so we should focus instead on the Conus Trend series.

The Trend in Cairns shows us that jobs continue to be lost. For the fifth consecutive month Trend Employment has fallen; this month by 400. Over the course of the past 12 months Trend Employment in Cairns has risen by just 500 with most of the gains made in the first quarter of this year having been wiped out. The Trend Participation Rate has also been falling (now at 59.9) and this has been the main reason the Trend Unemployment Rate has actually moved slightly lower, despite weaker jobs growth. The Conus Trend Unemployment Rate is now 8.3% (down from a revised 8.5% in Sept). If we consider the Employment/Working Population measure, which “sees through” the Participation effect, (see the second graph below) we see that the labour market remains weak, just above historical lows.
{For the record the ABS raw data showed employment in Cairns up 2,900 in Oct after a fall of 3,600 last month, and an unemployment rate of 8.7%}

In terms of Trend Unemployment Rates Cairns sits in fourth place amongst the QLD regions behind Queensland Outback (9.9%), and Fitzroy and Wide Bay (both 8.4%).

To our South in Townsville things look even weaker. The Trend Employment numbers show a twelfth consecutive month of declines (this month another 300 lost) with Trend Employment now down by 9,700 over the course of the past year. Trend Participation in Townsville has also fallen sharply (now at 60.9) and this has significantly acted to keep the Trend Unemployment Rate from rising much further. As it stands Trend unemployment is now at 8.2% (up from a revised 8.0% in Sept). Again, the Employment:Working Population measure demonstrates the weakness in the Townsville labour market.

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The gender split in the Cairns region shows Trend Unemployment Rate amongst males at 9.1% (down from 9.5%) while females are at 7.5% (down from 7.6%).

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If there is a positive feature to today’s data for Cairns in comes from an unusual source; Trend Youth Unemployment has fallen sharply. Although we must be very wary of the youth data, coming as it does from such a small data set, today’s numbers seem to suggest that we may have finally turned the corner on what has been a persistent weakness.

The Conus Trend data shows the Youth Unemployment Rate at 17.4% in Oct (down from a revised 19.0% in Sept) which is the lowest since March 2013. The Trend data is indicating that we have been seeing slow, but steady, Trend Employment growth for the past few months (albeit from very low levels) and that this is finally starting to be reflected in a declining Unemployment Rate. It may be too early to get very excited (given the small data set even the Trend series needs to be treated with a great degree of caution) but the graph below shows how the improvement does look to be establishing itself.

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The full set of Conus Trend data for all the Queensland regions is available for free download below. Please feel free to use this data, but if you do so we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus. The Cairns gender Trend data is available on request.

QLD Regions Jobs data – Conus Trend Oct 2015

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