Today’s release of ABS Regional Labour Market data is a very clear tale of two very different cities in the north of the State.
Once we have adjusted the raw ABS data, and therefore created the Conus Trend series, we see that Trend Employment in Cairns rose by 400 in March (after Feb was revised higher to +700). Over the course of the past 12 months Trend Employment in Cairns is up 3,300. However, this seemingly positive result is rather tempered by the realisation that an increase in Trend Participation over the same period (from 60.3 to 61.0) combined with an increasing population, has seen the Trend Unemployment Rate increase from 7.6% a year ago to 8.4% today (with Feb revised up to 8.0% from 7.6%). When we consider the Trend Employment:Working Population measure (which “sees through” this Participation effect) we see this has remained largely stable at 55.8. The conclusion we can draw from all this is that, although Trend employment growth is running at about 3%, this is less than sufficient to improve the overall employment picture given a slightly increasing Participation Rate and an increasing population.
The story in Townsville is less ambiguous. The Conus Trend Employment data shows employment in Townsville at its lowest level since Feb 2005 having fallen 1,500 in March and a total of 11,300 over the past year. Trend Participation has also fallen sharply over the course of the year (from 65.8 to 59.0) but this has not been enough to compensate for the falls in employment; the Trend Unemployment Rate in March stands at 8.8%, up from 7.8% a year ago. This is now the third worst rate in the state behind Ipswich (8.9%) and Outback Qld (13.1%..caution on this number!). Looking through the Participation impact (which has mitigated a much faster rise in Trend Unemployment Rate) we see the Trend Employment:Working Population measure down at 53.7 (having fallen from 60.7 a year ago). This data shows the employment situation in Townsville as unambiguously terrible. Given that the complete fall-out from the QN debacle is yet to be seen in this data we do not expect to see this improving anytime soon.
Looking at the Cairns data in more detail shows us a continuing story of concern with regard to Youth Unemployment. The Conus Trend has youth unemployment sitting at 28.8% (up from 27.8% in Feb which in turn was revised up from 27.5%). With Trend Youth Employment having fallen for each of the past 11 months there is clearly much to worry about here.
The older cohort (45 years and older) has also seen a decline in Trend Employment over the past two months but the Trend Unemployment Rate remains at 4.4% (unchanged from Feb which was revised from 3.9%).
The full Conus Trend Queensland Regions labour force data is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data as you wish but we would appreciate acknowledgement if you do so.