Friday saw the release of the Small Area Labour Market (SALM) data from the Dept. of Employment; and it was good news for the Far North and bad for Townsville...again.
The SALM data is based on a range of indicators including ABS Labour Force data for the SA4 areas, Youth and Newstart allowance data and the 2011 Census data at the SA2 level. As such this series cannot be directly compared with the ABS unemployment rates at the SA4 area level (or the Conus Trend series which is derived from that data). The data is presented on a smoothed basis where the series is smoothed over a four quarter basis to remove regional volatility.
For the December quarter we saw the unemployment rate in the Cairns Regional Council area drop from 7.8% to 7.1%. The SALM data showed a total of 1,129 more people employed over the quarter with the Labour Force growing by 624 people.
In the Cassowary Coast the SALM unemployment rate also dropped (to 7.6% from 8.3%) with 187 more people employed than in the Sept quarter. Digging deeper into the CCRC numbers we see the unemployment rate in Innisfail fell to 11.6% (from 12.6%), in Johnstone it dropped to 5.9% (from 6.5%) and in Tully (which includes Mission Beach and Cardwell) the decline was to 5.7% (from 6.3%). The marked difference between the unemployment rate in the north and that in the south remains very much in place.
Our own Conus Trend for the Cairns SA4 (which includes both CRC and CCRC areas along with the Tablelands, Douglas and Yarrabah) stood at 5.9% for December and has been stable since. Given the smoothed nature of these quarterly numbers we would expect to see the March quarter show further falls in the unemployment rates for CRC and CCRC.
Unfortunately, to our south in Townsville, the data merely confirms the weaker story we’ve been talking about for some time. The SALM unemployment rate jumped to 10.7% (from 9.7%) with 1,761 fewer people employed. The Conus Trend unemployment rate for Townsville SA4 fell slightly over the three months to January (11.8%) so we can hope that we have already seen the worst for the region and the March SALM data might be somewhat improved.