ABS changes to Labour Force data from 2013 still distorting Cairns youth data?

There has been much talk recently about the very high level of youth unemployment in the Cairns region; and rightly so. We’ve been taking a close look at the issue for some time and believe that the Conus Trend data series we’ve developed gives us the best and clearest picture of what is actually happening. When we consider the chart below what we immediately notice is a sharp move in the rate of Youth unemployment from early 2013. Prior to this time the Cairns youth unemployment rate, whilst highly volatile, was generally trending around the averages for the Rest of Queensland and Greater Brisbane; as was Townsville. Back in early 2015, when I first started creating the Conus Trend series for youth unemployment I noticed this issue and contacted the ABS to see if they might have some explanation.

At that time I was informed by the ABS that the issue most likely came about due to the changes in geographical standards implemented by the ABS in the first half of 2013 (in our case this meant a change from “Far North Queensland” as the designated region to the SA4 region of “Cairns”) and they noted that it only appeared to be an issue in the Cairns region.

In addition, between May and August 2013, the ABS rolled out a new Labour Force Survey (LFS) sample design (part of which related to the change to ASGS, the new geographical standard). At that time the ABS said that the “changes arising from the introduction of the ASGS, together with the introduction of the new sample (the new sample selected to represent each region may have different characteristics to the old sample) is likely to cause significant disturbance to Regional statistics from the LFS for May to August 2013 as the new LFS sample is gradually implemented.

The issue is limited to the youth cohort since when we consider the other age cohorts in the Cairns region we do not see anything like this kind of “disturbance”.

It would appear that this “significant disturbance” may still be plaguing our Cairns regional LFS youth data.


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