The Census and Cairns…less religious than your average Aussie

Today’s release of the 2016 Census data needs to be looked at carefully when considering the Cairns region. The de-amalgamation of Cairns Regional and Douglas Shire Councils in Jan 2014 makes comparison with the previous 2011 Census problematic. In order to make the comparisons we have added the Douglas Shire data to the Cairns Regional Council data for 2016 when comparing to 2011.

Total population has increased by 8% to 168,615 over the 5 years. The indigenous population growth rate has been much slower (just 4%) and a s a result the indigenous share of total population has fallen from 9.2% to 8.9%.

While Japanese (2,373) remains the most commonly spoken language (other than English) the two big movers in the past five years have been Punjabi (up 464% to 846) and Mandarin (up 165% to 1,166).

Along with the nation as a whole, the region has become significantly less religious over the five years. 32% of the total now claim no religion (up from 25% in 2011) which is higher than the national average of 30%. Christianity has fallen from 59% to 51% (of which the bulk are Catholics making up 23% of the total population).

Despite its aspirations as an innovative city internet connection remains a little below state and national averages at 82% (up from 78% in 2011).

Census and the Cassowary Coast….the rise of the Sikh

Today sees the major release of the 2016 Census data and gives us our first glimpse into what the Census can tell us about our own region.

When we consider the Cassowary Coast Regional Council region we see that total population has increased by just 3.8% since 2011 to 28,726 (still below the magic 30,000 level).

If we dig somewhat deeper we can look at the numbers for the 3 SA2 areas which (approximately) make up the CCRC region; Tully (which includes Mission Beach and Cardwell), Johnstone and Innisfail. Here we see a very different picture across the region; Tully is up 4.6% since 2011, Johnstone up 4.8% but Innisfail up just 1.7%.

The indigenous population has grown significantly faster over the period (up 7.9%) and therefore the percentage of total population that is indigenous has risen to 9.7% (from 9.4%).

Across the nation Australians have become less religious in the past 5 years and that is reflected in the Cassowary Coast. Those stating no religious affiliation have jumped from 18% to 24% while those identifying as Christian have fallen from 69% to 60% (of those the largest number are Catholics who account for 29% of the population; down from 33% in 2011). Sikhism has seen something of a jump to just over 2% having not even been counted in 2011. Islam accounts for less than 0.1%.

Given the shift in religions it is perhaps not surprising to see that the most commonly spoken language (other than English) is now Punjabi; in 2011 it was Italian.

The spread of the internet continues apace and we now see 74% of homes connected to the internet (although this remains well below the State and National average of 83-84%); it was 67% five years ago.

The 2016 Census is available on the ABS website.

New Conus Trend Regional Industry Jobs series

The ABS present quarterly data for industry employment at a regional level. However, the data they supply is only available on an unadjusted 4-quarters average basis for the SA4 regions. This means that the data as presented paints a very delayed picture of the actual employment reality within the regions. For some time we have been working on creating a more timely, and relevant indicator of regional industry employment data. Today we launch the result of that work; the Conus Trend Regional Industry Jobs series.

To create something that is more timely than the original ABS average we first had to dis-aggregate the 4 quarter average data to derive actual quarterly numbers. Those derived quarterly numbers were then adjusted and trended using an X-12-ARIMA model and further adjusted for consistency with the overall Queensland Trend industry data for the quarter (which we created using the original quarterly ABS original data at a state level). What we’ve ended up with is something that, we believe, a far more relevant and timely indicator of industry based employment levels than has previously been available at the regional level.

It should be noted that the Conus Trend Industry Jobs series for the regions will not be directly comparable with the Conus Trend Jobs data since it is based on quarterly (not monthly) data.

The graphs below give us an idea of in which industries jobs have been created (and lost) over the past 12 months in Cairns and Townsville.

As we can see Public Administration jobs have been a significant growth sector in both regions. They have both also seen good growth in the “tourism” sector of Accommodation & Food, while Cairns has also witnessed healthy growth in the Manufacturing sector. Unlike the state as a whole, Retail Trade has been positive in both regions (particularly in Cairns).

When we consider Greater Brisbane with the Rest of Queensland there are dramatic differences.

Again, growth in Public Admin jobs has been significant, but in Greater Brisbane this growth has been exceptional. Without the Public Admin jobs growth Greater Brisbane would have seen a decline in total employment. Construction and Accommodation & Food have also been strong performers in the Rest of Queensland. Note the declines in Retail Trade in both Greater Brisbane and Rest of Queensland in contrast to Cairns.


Regional jobs data shows Rest of Queensland improving better than Greater Brisbane

The ABS regional jobs data for May was released this morning and we have completed our Conus Trend analysis. What it shows is the regions doing far better than Greater Brisbane on almost all measures.

Over the year to May Trend jobs were up 31,000 in QLD, but 23,400 of these were added in the Rest of Queensland with just 7,600 in Greater Brisbane. Even more impressively the Rest of Queensland saw full-time jobs up 11,400 while they fell 10,500 in Greater Brisbane. The result is that the Trend unemployment rate in Greater Brisbane is now at 6.4% while in the Rest of Queensland it is 6.0% (its 6.3% in the state as a whole).

In our own region we also saw good numbers. Cairns Trend employment was up 400 for the month (with 1,100 new full-time positions) and up 9,800 fore the year (5,900 of which are full-time increases). With the Participation Rate increasing slightly (after revisions) to 62.0 the Trend unemployment rate has actually nudged slightly higher in May to 5.8% (after April was revised down to 5.7%). As the labour market in Cairns improves and we see participation increasing it is to be expected that the unemployment rate is unlikely to fall further, particularly given it now sits well below the state average.

In Townsville the recovery continues to gather momentum. Trend employment was up 1,200 in May (full-time accounted for 700 of those) and up 11,800 for the year (8,900 full-time increases). Trend participation here was revised lower last month so ,despite a small tick higher in May (to 60.6), the solid jobs growth sees the Trend unemployment rate fall sharply lower to 6.3% (from a downwardly revised 7.3% last month). Townsville no longer figures in the bottom portion of regional areas in terms of Trend unemployment; the initiatives, announcements and improvements in confidence we have been talking about for some time have clearly had a dramatically positive impact.

Despite all this positive news, the graph below makes it clear that, once we allow for the declines in participation, there is still plenty of scope for improvements in labour conditions in both regions.

The full data-set of Conus Trend Regional Jobs is available for download below. Please feel free to use this (for non-commercial purposes) but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – May 2017

Today all saw the release of the quarterly industry employment data from the ABS. We shall be updating our new Conus Trend Industry Jobs data-set shortly and posting here once we have results.

Significant revisions muddy the data but Domestic Tourism numbers not looking good for TNQ

As we have been expecting for some time, today saw the release of some major revisions to domestic tourism numbers for TNQ. Tourism Research Australia have released the National Visitor Survey report for the March 2017 quarter (available here) along with revisions to data going back to the 2014 year (see here for details). The main point of the revisions is a roughly 15% decline in the original estimate of overnight trips to TNQ in 2015. While details of the revisions are sketchy at this stage (TRA are only providing data for year end, and March 2016, rather than individual quarters) it is clear that they remove much of the increases previously reported for TNQ which many (ourselves included) had queried at the time.

Despite a degree of uncertainty about the revisions this new data clearly confirms the ongoing slide in domestic tourism to the Far North.

Australia saw an increase of overnight trips of 3.1% for the year to March 2017; Queensland was up 4.3%. In TNQ however we saw a 6.9% decline in visits and a 8.4% reduction in expenditure over the year.

Even with international tourism expenditure having increased over the year, the drop in domestic expenditure sees the total for the region fall 4.9% since March 2016.

Given the support that the tourism recovery has given to the TNQ economy it will be worrying many to see this degree of a slow-down seemingly now confirmed. There had been hope within the tourism sector that the long-awaited revisions from TRA would confirm that growth remained in place (albeit at a slower pace than originally estimated); that hope appears now to have been misplaced.

Dept of Employment data confirms improvements in the Far North

Last week saw the release of the Dept of Employment Small Area Labour Market data for the March quarter. This series is based on ABS data as well as Centrelink and Census data and is the only reliable source of unemployment information at a Local Government Area level. However, the SALM series is based on a very different methodology to the ABS Labour Force survey data and as such cannot be compared directly to the ABS (or Conus derived) series.

Unfortunately the data is also only presented on a 4-quarters smoothed basis (i.e. the average of the previous 4 quarters) and as such is extremely lagged and slow to respond to changes in the underlying data. We have therefore been working on trying to tease out some more timely data signals from this series. We have done so by dis-aggregating the 4-quarters smoothed data to create derived quarterly numbers which we have then trended. The resulting Conus Trend SALM provides us with a far more timely indicator for labour force at a LGA level than we have previously had.

So far we have adopted this technique only for our own local LGA areas (Cassowary Coast and Cairns) as well as Townsville City Council, but aim to expand the coverage as resources allow.

The original SALM data shows the unemployment rate in CCRC falling from 7.6% to 7.1%. The Conus Trend SALM is less dramatic (largely because it started recognising the improvements earlier) and sees unemployment fall from 7.2% to 7.0%. Trend employment is up 633 over the course of the past year.

In Cairns Regional Council the original SALM has the unemployment rate falling from 7.1% to 6.7%; a similar story emerges from the Trend SALM with it down from 7.0% to 6.8%. Trend employment is up 3,680 over the year.

In Townsville the original SALM data continued to weaken with unemployment rising to 10.8% from 10.7% with employment down more than 5,000. However, as readers of this blog will be aware, we have been seeing clear improvements in the labour market in Townsville over recent months. These improvements are better reflected in the Trend SALM data where we see the unemployment rate stable at 10% but Trend employment up 1,760 over the year.

Strong jobs numbers but full-time in QLD are at a standstill

The ABS has shocked the markets with some very strong jobs numbers for May. The headline (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate has fallen to 5.5% (its lowest level since Feb 2013) on the addition of a thumping 42,000 new jobs. The markets had been expecting the unemployment rate to stay at 5.7% and about 10,000 jobs to be added. All of those 42,000 new positions came in the full-time sector which was up 52,100. Participation also rose slightly curtailing an even sharper decline in the unemployment rate.

However, before we all start getting too excited we should take a moment to look at the Trend series (what the ABS recommends should always be done anyway). Here we see 25,200 new jobs added (and March revised slightly higher too) and an unemployment rate at 5.7%. Trend jobs growth over the past 12 months is averaging 16,200 per month, so the current pace of growth is certainly better than that. It’s worth noting that the Trend unemployment rate has been stuck between 5.7% and 5.8% since December 2015 so it would certainly suggest that the kind of move seen in the seasonally adjusted numbers may be somewhat over stated.

Queensland too saw better numbers although here things are decidedly more muted. Seasonally adjusted jobs were up 5,500 although full-time positions fell by 11,200. The unemployment rate fell to 6.1% (from 6.3% in March) with Participation stable. Again the Trend series paints a more reliable picture; jobs rose by 5,900 (after March was revised slightly stronger) and have been growing at an average pace of 2,600 per month over the past 12 months. Trend full time positions, however, are almost static having risen just 1,800 over the whole 12 month period. The Trend unemployment rate sits at 6.3% (unchanged in 5 months). As the chart below makes clear, although jobs are growing (and the pace has picked up over the past few months) the rate of growth is only just sufficient to keep up with population growth. The Queensland government will certainly be hoping that their “jobs Budget” earlier this week can have the impact on jobs creation it promises.

Regional jobs data for May will be released next Thursday. At this time we will be updating the Conus Trend Regional Jobs data sets as well as releasing our new Conus Industry Trend Regional data based on the quarterly ABS industry employment data for the May quarter.

QLD Budget downgrades growth forecasts. Is Debbie to blame?

Today’s QLD Budget 2017-18 has downgraded growth forecasts across the forward years and is, to an extent and quite openly, laying the blame at the feet of TC Debbie for the slowdown. The Budget papers say “Queensland growth forecasts for 2016-17 and 2017-18 would have been higher, but for the impact of Severe Tropical Cyclone (STC) Debbie, which is estimated to have detracted around $2 billion or ¾ percentage point from economic growth across these years.” Certainly Debbie will have had impacts on coal, sugar and tourism exports across both 2016-17 and 2017-18 (TC Debbie struck the Whitsundays at the end of March and had severe flood impacts for days afterwards). But how much would this impact have been, and can it really account for the sharp reduction in growth forecasts for 2016-17 and 2017-18?

  • At the end of 2014-15 QLD’s Gross State Product stood at about $309bn
  • The 2016-17 MYFER forecasts growth for the 2015-16 year to come in at 3.2%
  • In reality the result was just 2.4%, which saw GSP at $316.3 bn by June 2016
  • MYFER had forecasts for 2016-17 of +4.0% and for 2017-18 of +3.5%
  • These would have taken GSP to $341.3 bn by June 2018
  • Today’s Budget has revised down growth forecasts to +2.75% in both 2016-17 and 2017-18
  • This growth, if it were attained, would see GSP at $333.9 bn by June 2018; a shortfall of $7.4 bn over the 2 years from the MYFER forecast

If we assumed that the $2 bn negative impact of TC Debbie were spread evenly across the 2 years (i.e. $1 bn in 2016-17 and $1 bn in 2017-18) then we could have expected to see forecasts for 2016-17 fall to +3.7% (down from 4%) and +3.2% (down from +3.5%) in 2017-18; significantly less than the actual reductions contained in this Budget.

So if it isn’t the impact of Debbie that’s seen growth forecasts cut back so far, what is it?

Comparing the projected growth rates of the various components of GSP from the Budget in 2016-17 to today’s we can see the answer lies not just in exports (Debbie impact).

  • Household Consumption (the largest single component) sees forecast growth scaled back in 2017-18 by 0.5%
  • Private sector Investment is now expected to contract by 1.75% in 2017-18 when last year’s Budget had penciled in a 3.5% increase
  • There is a reduction in Net Export growth forecasts in 2016-17 (down to +0.75% from +2%) but the forecast for 2017-18 remains the same at +0.75%, despite the supposed impact of Debbie in this financial year

The reduction in the forecast for Private Investment in 2017-18 would account for a bigger reduction in GSP than TC Debbie; some $3.3 bn. The decline in Household Consumption forecast would account for another $1bn in 2017-18 GSP.

Add these two elements to the $2 bn “Debbie effect” and we have most of the $7.4 bn shortfall between the MYFER and Budget 2017-18 forecasts.

This year sees a bigger than anticipated surplus for the Government ($2.8 bn rather than $2 bn) on the back of higher resources royalties. Unfortunately the slower than expected growth projections will see surpluses now forecast much smaller in the forward years. Previously forecast cumulative surpluses to 2019-20 of $4.6 bn have now been scaled back to just $3.8 bn despite the overshoot in 2016-17.

International Tourism arrivals continue to grow but China is slowing

The ABS Short Term Arrivals and Departures data for April shows arrivals up 10.1% from a year ago to a total for the 12 months of almost 8.5 million.

However, the crucial Chinese market (which accounts for 14.7% of all arrivals) has seen growth slow significantly. Trend growth in Chinese arrivals is up just 7.6% from a year ago; this is the slowest pace of Trend growth since Feb 2010. While a slowing pace of growth is to expected as the actual level of Chinese arrivals increase, the pace of this slowdown appears to be indicating a more potentially disturbing reality. Just over a year ago Chinese arrivals were growing at almost 30% a year. That pace of growth has been slowing rapidly since the start of 2016 and has now reached 7 year lows.

Departures are also up, although at a much slower pace than departures. Short term departures are up 4% from a year ago. The difference in the pace of growth of arrivals and departures has seen the annual gap between the number leaving and those arriving over the past 12 months fall to a 6 year low of just less than 1.5 million.

Domestic visitor numbers will be updated by way of the National Visitor Survey for the March quarter from Tourism Research Australia next Wednesday.