The ABS original data for regional labour force was released this morning (along with some adjustments caused by the labour force re-benchmarking released earlier this month) and, as always, we need to consider this highly volatile data set in light of the Conus Trend to make much sense of it.
What the Trend analysis shows us is Cairns powering ahead while Townsville continues to struggle.
In Cairns we saw Conus Trend employment increase by 1,300 on the month for a 5,200 increase over the past 12 months. Full time increases accounted for half the growth (up 700) with full time jobs up 2,000 in the past 12 months in stark contrast to the Rest of Queensland where we’ve seen 38,500 Trend full time positions lost. Even with the Trend Participation Rate moving higher to 60.6 (from 60.1) the Trend unemployment rate still managed an impressive decline to 6.3% (after Oct was revised down from 7.3% to 6.6%). The Trend unemployment rate in Cairns is now below that in the Rest of Queensland (6.5%); this is the first time this has been the case since October 2010. Trend employment growth in Cairns now stands at +4.9% pa compared to -1.3% for QLD, -0.3% for Greater Brisbane and -2.3% for the Rest of Queensland. We would have to caution that the speed with which the unemployment rate in Cairns has improved may be a little too good to be true. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that we have seen a significant improvement for the region in the past 6 months.
Youth unemployment remains a concern with the Trend youth unemployment rate still high at 21.4% (and 5th highest in the state), despite falling sharply over the past few months. Trend youth employment has picked up slightly in recent months (adding another 300 this month) but remains 300 below the level of a year ago.
To our south the positive recent news to come out of Townsville (i.e. Adani, new stadium and state government focus on the region) is yet to be showing up in the Trend data which continue to deteriorate. Trend employment in Townsville fell 200 in Nov and is now down 8,300 from a year ago. If there is a bright light in this data for the region it comes in the form of full time jobs. Trend full time positions rose 300 in Nov. However, Trend full time jobs remain almost 6,000 below where they were a year ago. With the Trend participation rate increasing slightly to 58.3% (still very low) we see the Trend unemployment rate edging higher still to 12.5% (after Oct was revised from 12.1% to 12.4%) and the worst in the state. Youth employment in Townsville has become a real worry with the Trend youth unemployment rate spiking to 28.6% (after Oct was also revised sharply higher). Youth Trend employment in Townsville fell again in Nov (down 1,000) and has now dropped by 5,300 over the past 12 months.
With the weak participation rate, and high unemployment, the graph below highlights how weak the employment:working population measure has now become for the region. We can also see the recovery in Cairns and the reality that weakness in the Rest of Queensland is fast outstripping that in Greater Brisbane.
The story of a two-speed labour market in the state remains in place with Greater Brisbane performing far better than the Rest of Queensland; particularly when we consider full time positions. In Greater Brisbane Trend full time jobs have increased by 12,100 over the year while in the Rest of Queensland they have fallen by 38,500.
The complete Conus Trend data series for the Queensland regions is available for download below. Please feel free to use this (for non-commercial purposes) but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.