Today saw the ABS releases their original July labour force data for the regions. Our own Conus Trend analysis allows us to make some sense of this highly volatile data-set.
The headline Conus Trend unemployment rates in both Cairns and Townsville SA4 areas sees some improvement over the month, although in Cairns this owes more to a decline in the Participation Rate rather than a pick-up in employment.
The Trend unemployment rate in Cairns now stands at 9.6% (down from an unrevised 9.8% in June) although Trend employment remained static at 106,600 (after back months saw some downward revisions). Over the course of the past 12 months Trend employment in Cairns has fallen by 1,500, or at a rate of -2% pa compared to the rate in Greater Brisbane of +2.1% or Rest of Queensland at -0.8%. The bright lining in these numbers for Cairns perhaps comes from the fact that the vast bulk of the decline in employment has come from part-time positions (down 1,200 over the year) with only modest loses in the full-time sector. This contrasts to the picture in the Rest of Queensland more generally where 25,100 Trend full-time positions have gone over the year with just 14,100 new part-time jobs to compensate.
When we consider the age breakdown for Cairns we see some improvement in the youth sector (15-24 yrs) where the Trend unemployment rate has fallen to 31.3% with Trend employment almost flat. However, we should not forget that the Youth Trend unemployment rate has now stood above 30% in Cairns for six consecutive months. The middle age cohort (25-44 yrs) added 1,100 Trend jobs and saw Trend unemployment drop to 6.5% (with June revised down to 6.6%). The older group (45+ yrs) lost almost 1,000 Trend jobs and saw Trend unemployment rise to 4.6% (after June was revised from 4.2% to 4.5%).
In Townsville we also see some modest improvements. The Trend unemployment rate has fallen to 11.0% (after June was revised sharply lower to 11.3%) with the addition of 400 Trend jobs (full-time positions up 500 with a decline of 100 in part-time). This is the first month of positive Trend employment growth in Townsville since Sept. 2014. Trend unemployment remains as the second worst in the state after the Outback (13.6%).
Unfortunately this modest advance does little to improve the picture for the year. Over the past 12 months Townsville has lost 8,200 Trend employed, of which 7,400 have come from full-time positions. When we look at the age breakdown over the year we see that the middle aged have borne the bulk of the declines, losing 7,100 Trend jobs, with the older cohort also losing 5,100. The youth sector in Townsville has actually gained 3,900 Trend jobs over the past year.
Considering the age data for July we see that all of the gains this month have come from middle aged workers (+1,000) with youth (-600) and older (-100) both missing out. Trend employment growth for Townsville now stands at -9.5% pa and is second weakest after the Outback.
What the chart below makes clear is that, when we look beyond the impact of Participation Rate changes, both Cairns and Townsville labour markets remain in extremely weak positions. Although there is some sign that a bottom may have been reached (at least for Cairns).
What we can also see is that the differential between what is happening in Greater Brisbane and the reality in the regions is growing. The divergence between full-time employment growth in Greater Brisbane and the Rest of Queensland is obvious below. Over the course of the past year Greater Brisbane has added 16,600 full-time positions while the Rest of Queensland have lost 25,100.
The full set of Conus Trend data for all the Queensland Regions is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.