The changing face of work in Cairns and Townsville

Yesterday saw the ABS release their February monthly regional labour force data, and our own Conus Trend series (see here for details). The ABS also released their quarterly data on regional employment by industry sector for the February quarter. This is presented on a quarterly basis as a rolling 4-quarter average, and as such should not be directly compared with our own Conus Trend monthly data.

Given the quarterly, averaged, nature of this data set it isn’t terribly useful as an indicator of actual employment levels right now; but what it does allow us to do is look at the changes in the landscape of work over the past 10 years. The charts below show the actual levels of employment in both Cairns and Townsville and also track the changes in the number of people employed in each industry over the past decade. Note that the ABS use the ANZSIC Industry classifications which do not include a “tourism” industry. Employment within the tourism sector is spread across multiple industries such as Accommodation & Food, Arts & Recreation Services, Retail Trade, Transport etc.


The big winners over the past 10 years in Cairns have been Health Care and Education with Construction being the biggest loser. Retail Trade remains the single largest employer, but this sector has only returned to that position in the last few quarters; prior to that both Health Care and Education had been larger.

The big difference we notice with Townsville is the fact that Health Care is such a clear winner in terms of total employed. Over the past decade Retail Trade and Construction have been the big losers in the region. Public Administration has seen the greatest growth with Health Care only slightly behind.


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