Regional job improvements; but Townsville is all down to falling Participation

The ABS release of original regional labour force data for September, as always, needs to be considered in light of the Conus Trend to make much sense of what can be very volatile data.

In Cairns we see the Conus Trend unemployment rate fall to 8.4% (after an unrevised 8.7% in August) with an additional 1,200 Trend jobs added; of these, 700 were full-time. Over the course of the last year Cairns has gained 2,000 Trend jobs with a rate of employment growth of 2.1% (versus -1.2% for the Rest of Queensland and +0.9% for Greater Brisbane). The Trend Participation Rate has moved higher to 60.4 which simply supports the stronger tone of the data.

In Townsville the original data gives real cause for scepticism. The original unemployment rate in September came in at 6.4% after August stood at 14.5%! This huge (and somewhat unbelievable) plunge means that the Conus Trend unemployment rate drops to 9.5% (after August was revised sharply lower to 10.1% from 12.8%). However, while this may look encouraging we also see that participation has declined sharply with the Trend rate now down to a new record low of just 56.9. Despite the supposed drop in the unemployment rate, Trend employment is barely changed (up 100) with increases in full-time jobs being offset by declines in part-time. Trend employment in Townsville remains 7,800 below its level a year ago and employment growth is now at -7.5%. To “see through” the participation effect we can consider the employment:working population measure and here we see a sharp drop to new record lows for Townsville while Cairns recovers from lows (see second chart below).

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When we look at the age breakdowns we see that youth unemployment in Cairns, whilst still high, is starting to come down. The Conus Trend youth unemployment rate is Sept has fallen to 27.1% after August was revised down to 28.9%. Trend youth employment has now increased by 400 over the past two months, although it is still down 1,800 from a year ago.

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As has been the case for some time full-time Trend employment in Greater Brisbane is fast outstripping full-time jobs in the Rest of Queensland. The 2-speed nature of thee Queensland economy remains in place.

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The full set of Conus Trend QLD Regional Jobs data is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data, but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus if you do so.

Conus Trend QLD Regional Jobs – Sept 2016

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