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).
When looking at the data since July 2017 for Cairns SA4 we sum the Dept of Social Service totals for the Cairns North, Cairns South, Innisfail-Cassowary Coast, Tablelands and Port Douglas-Daintree SA3 regions. Prior to that change we had to rely on a collection of Service Zones which only approximately to the Cairns SA4 region; care must therefore be taken when comparing figures from before and after July 2017. 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.
Having said all of that, what the data demonstrates is the clear decline in the number of people claiming benefit in the Cairns region over the past year and the related decline in the Job Seeker Rate, which has been falling since 2015; it now sits at 7.6%. The rate of decline has slowed in recent months (which accords with the findings from the monthly Conus Trend Jobs data) but the trend of improvement remains intact.