The release by the Dept of Employment of their Small Area Labour Market (SALM) data for the first quarter to March 2016 confirms the weaker story that we’ve been seeing in North Queensland for a while.
The SALM data is based on a range of indicators including ABS Labour Force data for the SA4 areas, Youth and Newstart allowance data and the 2011 Census data at the SA2 level. As such this series cannot be directly compared with the ABS unemployment rates at the SA4 area level (or the Conus Trend series which is derived from that data). The data is presented on a smoothed basis where the series is smoothed over a four quarter basis to remove regional volatility.
What we see for the first quarter is the unemployment rate in the Cassowary Coast Regional Council area at 8.1% (up from 8.0% in Q4). The total labour force has increased by about 100 while jobs are up just over 60 over the quarter. Looking into the area in more depth by way of the SA2 areas we see Innisfail with unemployment at 12.1% (up from 11.6%), Johnstone at 6.4% (unchanged) and Tully also 6.4% (up from 6.2%).
The Cairns Regional Council area saw the labour force increase by just over 600 with about 400 new jobs over the quarter and an unemployment rate at 7.4% (up from 7.2%).
Townsville City Council has had a shocker of a quarter (which is no surprise to see) with the unemployment rate jumping to 7.9% (from 7.5%); labour force fell by 2,300 while 2,500 jobs were lost. The fact that the number registered as unemployed has risen by only 200 in the face of such a sharp drop in employment suggests a large number of people have removed themselves from the labour force; either simply by not registering as unemployed or by leaving the area. However, such a phenomenon is yet be suggested in the Conus Trend Participation Rate data for the Townsville SA4 region, where Trend PR has fallen only moderately.
(all data on a smoothed 4 quarters basis)
As mentioned above, the method used to calculate these SALM numbers, and the fact that the LGA areas do not correspond to the SA4 regions, precludes making direct comparison with the SA4 Conus Trend series. However, it is perhaps worth noting that since March the Conus Trend data shows the Townsville SA4 region having lost another 1,500 jobs with the unemployment rate moving rapidly higher to 10.5% in April (from 10.0% in March). This does not suggest that the SALM data for the second quarter (due for release in Sept) will be any rosier for the Townsville LGA.
The SA4 Conus Trend series also shows a deteriorating picture for Cairns since March with 400 Trend job losses and the Trend unemployment rate rising to 9.3%.