Regular readers will be well aware that there are various ways to look at the labour market; the standard “unemployment rate”being just one of them. Another, less well known measure, is provided by the Dept of Social Services in their monthly payment recipients data.
Our own Conus Trend series for Cairns SA4, based on the original ABS regional data, showed a slight edge up in Trend unemployment in February to 6.8% (see here for details). The Dept of Social Security payment recipients data released late last week was a little more positive and appears to confirm the generally improving trend in the Cairns labour market that we’ve been seeing for the past 9 months.
When looking at data for our region we sum the Dept of Social Service totals for the Atherton, Cairns, Innisfail, Mareeba, Mossman and Yarrabah Service Zones. These Service Zones, when taken together, may not precisely correspond to the Cairns SA4 region but are as good an approximation as we can get. Given the volatile nature of this original, unadjusted data series we have created a Conus Trend Job Seekers Rate using the trend number of payment recipients as a percentage of the Conus Trend Labour Force.
It needs stressing that how the Dept of Social Service count those who are seeking jobs and receiving allowances is very different from how the ABS define someone as “unemployed”. The rules around who receives what allowance also change over time so this is a data set that has to be treated with caution if making comparisons over periods when changes have occurred. As a result of these caveats we stress that the absolute levels may be difficult to reconcile with other measures, but the movements in Trends (at least over periods when rules don’t change) can provide us with useful supporting evidence.
It would seem that the improvements being seen in the Conus Trend series over the previous 9 months are being reflected (albeit slowly) in the Dept of Social Services data with the Trend Job Seekers rate now at an almost-two-year low of 8.26%