On ABC North Queensland yesterday Pat Hession asked Pete what we should be looking for when things in Townsville start to turn-around (you can listen to the full interview here). It’s an interesting question and perhaps best answered by taking a close look at a region just to the south of Townsville that, not so long ago, was suffering badly (although, to be fair, not as badly as Townsville is now); and that region is Mackay.
By August 2016 the Trend unemployment rate in Mackay had fallen to just 5.1%; 12 months earlier it was as high as 7.7%. A little over 2 years ago the Trend unemployment rate in Mackay was as low as 3.5%.
At that time, in August 2014, the Mining and Construction industries together employed some 27,300 in the region (ABS quarterly data averaged for the previous 4 quarters). A year later that total had fallen to 21,700 as both sectors lost significant workers in the wake of the mining investment downturn. By August this year the total employed n those two sectors had recovered to 22,700; Mining employment is back to the about the same levels it was in 2014 while Construction is still almost 5,000 below the 2014 levels.
Over the course of the past year Trend employment in the youth sector is up 3,100, middle-aged have added 5,400 jobs while the older cohort is flat. Over the past two years Trend employment is back to where it started in 2014 with youth up 2,800, middle-aged 300 lower and the older down 2,400. The Trend unemployment rates across all demographics have fallen this year (particularly in the youth sector). In the past two years Trend unemployment is down just 0.9% with youth and middle-aged having fallen and the older group is up.
Trend participation, which fell sharply to Aug 2015 on the back of the labour market weakness, has rallied well and is now up to 20 month highs. The full extent of the recovery in Mackay can perhaps best be demonstrated by noting that the Trend Employment:Working Population measure now sits at 67.7 and is the second highest in the whole state (behind only Brisbane Inner City); a year ago it sat at 8th.
The recovery for Mackay in the past 12 months has been broad-based. Trend jobs, both full-time and part-time are up; employment is up and unemployment rates are down across all age demographics. Participation is up and the number unemployed is down. Jobs gains over the period have been well distributed across a number of industry sectors (particularly Accommodation & Food, Mining, Education, Manufacturing and Health) while weaker sectors have been limited to Construction (still much weaker than 2 years ago) and Agriculture (which fell in the past 12 months but is still slightly above its level of 2 years ago).
Mackay still has some way to go to get back to the heady days of early 2014 but the recovery is certainly well underway in the region.
Full Conus Trend QLD Regional labour force data is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data, but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus if you do so.