I was spurred into action this week by an article from John McCarthy in the Courier Mail (see here) in which he discussed the ABS data for the median length of time job seekers are spending looking for work. It’s not a data set that I’ve previously looked at much but John’s article got me to take a closer look.
The first thing that became clear was that the ABS data is presented on a monthly, unadjusted original basis and, as such, is extremely volatile. Comparing one month’s worth of data really doesn’t make much sense in this scenario. In order to try and get a better, clearer picture I spent some time seasonally adjusting the data at the state and territory level and at the SA4 regional level in QLD and have created the Conus Trend Search for Job series. The results are quite interesting.
Firstly it’s clear that since the impacts of the GFC took hold in 2008-09 we’ve seen a steady increase in the median number of weeks that people are out of work. However, in more recent times (since mid-2017) the nation as a whole, and NSW and Victoria in particular, have seen a sharp and significant reduction. Queensland, on the other hand, despite witnessing country-leading jobs growth in 2017, has seen a sharp move up in the length of time taken to find work. In his article John suggests that this might have something to do with the pick-up in interstate migration that we’ve seen into Queensland during 2017.
When we look at Queensland more closely we see the move up has been replicated across both the capital and the regions; although the scale of the increase has been far more dramatic in Greater Brisbane. This could be seen as further evidence of the impact of inter-state migration as more of these migrants are likely to settle in the Greater Brisbane area (at least initially) than the regions. Within the regions it would certainly appear that the closer to Brisbane one is the shorter the wait with Darling Downs – Maranoa (10 weeks), Gold Coast (11 weeks) and Sunshine Coast (16 weeks) the best performers.
In our own region we see a similar pattern of increases since the GFC, although search duration has declined over the past year as the local labour market has improved. Mackay, a region that the Courier Mail article highlighted, has also seen sharp falls during 2017 which tallies with the Conus Trend Jobs data showing the region’s employment growth at 6% for the year to November. This graph also includes the original, unadjusted ABS data just so that readers can see quite how volatile this data set is!