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 way of the Dept of Social Services data in their monthly payment recipients release (available here). Their most recent release relates to data for Sept.
When looking at the data for our region until July 2017 we have had to sum the Dept of Social Service totals for the Atherton, Cairns, Innisfail, Mareeba, Mossman and Yarrabah Service Zones. These Service Zones, when taken together, did not precisely correspond to the Cairns SA4 region but were as good an approximation as we could get. However, since the data for July 2017 the Dept now presents the data according to SA3 regions. which allows us to sum Cairns North, Cairns South, Innisfail-Cassowary Coast, Port Douglas-Daintree and Tablelands (East)-Kuranda SA3 areas to get a total for the Cairns SA4 region. 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; but this recent change in presentation of the original data means that care should be taken when comparing data from before and after July 2017. Nevertheless, having looked at the derived Trend series it would appear that the previous approximation using Service Zone data is accurate enough to make broad trend comparisons valid.
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 few years are being reflected in the Conus Trend Job Seekers rate which has been falling since August 2016 and now sits at 7.6% (down from 7.7% in August).