How long does it take to get a job in QLD?

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!

Regional Labour Force and Industry Jobs data

Our catch-up of regional data continues with the November regional labour force numbers and the quarterly industry jobs numbers. Both of these data sets we prefer to analyse through the lens of the respective Conus Trend series. For the regional monthly jobs data we prepare the Conus Trend using the original unadjusted ABS data while for the quarterly industry jobs numbers we deconstruct the 4-quarter averages that the ABS supply and then create Trends from those quarterly numbers. Both these data sets provide, in our opinion, more timely and useful data than that available directly from the ABS. In particular the Conus Trend Industry Jobs provides a much more timely indication of where jobs are being created (and lost) at a regional level than the very lagged 4-quarters average.

However, given the differences in the time-frames and original data sources used for each Trend series we should stress that direct comparison between the two is unwise. Despite the deconstruction and trending of the quarterly industry jobs data, the Conus Trend Industry Jobs will still lag the monthly Conus Trend Jobs data.

Looking at the industry data first we can see some significant differences between the Greater Brisbane and Rest of Queensland industry changes over the year.

Some differences worth noting are in the Retail Trade sector where the Greater Brisbane region has seen an extra 14,000 jobs while the Rest of Queensland have lost 3,100 (for previous comments on this issue see here).

Public Administration has seen jobs increase in Rest of Queensland by 5,700 while they have eased slightly (down 300) in Greater Brisbane. This would appear to reflect Govt policy emphasis on regional jobs with increases seen in most regional SA4 areas.

Healthcare and Social Assistance saw solid jobs growth across most regions with both Greater Brisbane and the Rest of Queensland recording sizeable increases.

Education and Training fell 1,600 in the regions (led mainly by falls in Cairns, Mackay and Wide Bay) but was up 9,900 in Greater Brisbane (gains across most SA4 areas).

Construction was another strong performer for the state but Greater Brisbane accounted for almost two-thirds of those gains (up 7,100) with just 3,800 coming from the Rest of Queensland. This should be of little surprise given the unit-building boom underway in the capital.

Within our own region Cairns saw solid industry jobs growth in Construction (+2,500), Accommodation & Food (+2,100), Healthcare (+1,900) and Arts and Recreation (+1,800) with losses in Retail Trade (-2,100) and Education & Training (-1,800).

Townsville, not surprisingly given the strength of the labour market recovery seen in the past year, saw gains in almost every sector. Of particular note are Healthcare (+3,400), Education & Training (+1,800), Accommodation & Food (+1,300) and Public Administration (+900).

Turning to the monthly labour force data for November we see the performance of Greater Brisbane, which had been lagging the regions only a few months ago, now taking the lead once again. Across the nation Trend employment growth for the year to November stood at +3.1%, Queensland did better at +4.8% while we now see Greater Brisbane overtaking the regions (+4.9% versus +4.7% for Rest of Queensland).

In our own region Trend employment is growing at 3.1% in Cairns, up 3,600 employed for the year with the Trend unemployment rate lifting slightly to 5.9% (from a downwardly revised 5.8% in Oct). The Trend unemployment rate in Cairns now appears to be settling at a level similar to the state-wide average and we can expect to see any future moves down tied to declines across the state more widely.

Townsville’s employment, which has seen very strong jobs growth over the year from a very weak base, is now growing at 11.6% (the strongest in the state) with an extra 11,100 employed over the year. However, the Trend unemployment rate sits at 9.0% (up from 8.5% in October) which, barring the Outback, is still the highest in the state. Clearly there remains ample scope for further improvements in this region and some of the more recent announcements for Townsville should see employment growth continue. Perhaps some declines in a strong Participation Rate will also help to drive the unemployment rate lower.

The graph below “sees through” the participation impact on unemployment rates and shows us that both Cairns and Townsville have weakened slightly in recent months having recovered strongly since 2nd and 3rd quarters 2016.

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

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – Nov 2017


Domestic tourism data for TNQ confirms ongoing worries

We’ve been away from the office for almost three weeks over Christmas and the New Year, so now is the time to start to catch up on the regional data released since we left; and we’re staring with the National Visitor Survey for the September quarter released by Tourism Research Australia on Dec 20th (and available for download here).

We’ve been discussing the weakness in the domestic market in the TNQ region for some time and this most recent release does nothing to mitigate against that. While total domestic overnight visitors rose by 7.2% (for the year to Sept) in Australia as a whole, and by 9.7% in QLD, they fell by 2.8% in the Far North. Overnight expenditure also rose by about 7% nationally, and 6% in QLD, but fell by 2% in our region. The average length of stay in TNQ rose very slightly to 5.03 nights.

The less significant day-tripper market also showed weakness with a 1% rise on QLD compared to a 7% fall in TNQ (and a 10.7% drop in day-trip expenditure).

All up domestic expenditure in the TNQ region fell by 3% for the year (bear in kind these are nominal figures and do not take account of inflation which pushes the real decline close to 5%). As we noted just before we went away (see here), the international market is seeing growth but only at a level well below that witnessed elsewhere in the nation. Combining both domestic (overnight and day-trip) and international expenditure we see a decline in tourism expenditure in our region of 2.5% over the course of the year. Given the nation is in the grip of a tourism “boom” that fact should be causing some red-faces at TTNQ and a good deal of re-thinking within the tourism industry.

SALM data supports improving picture in the North

On Friday the Dept of Employment released the latest Small Area Labour Market (SALM) data at the Local Government Area level for the quarter to Sept.

Using the unsmoothed (original) SALM data, which is tucked away in the explanatory notes section, we have created a Conus SALM Trend series of unemployment rates and derived employment for all the QLD LGAs.

This shows us that the Queensland LGA with the highest Trend unemployment rate (excluding Aboriginal councils) was Charters Towers Regional Council at 10.9% (which is down from 13.2% a year earlier) with Isaac Regional Council the lowest at 1.7% (down from 2.2% a year earlier).

While the SALM data does not explicitly provide employment data it can derived from the Labour Force and Unemployment data that is provided (although we acknowledge that the different methodologies used for the estimation of unemployment and Labour Force data make such a derivation problematic we consider that the estimated Trend based on this derivation provides a useful, albeit limited, indicator for employment trends). Once we create a Conus Trend for this derived data series we can compare this to the Conus Trend Jobs series (based on the monthly ABS Labour Force Survey data) to get an idea of where, within the SA4 region, we are seeing jobs growth.

For the Cairns SA4 region this analysis suggests that jobs growth for the year to Sept 2017 has been made up in the following proportions from the various LGAs within the region (these proportions are broadly inline with the population make-up of the region so suggest that employment growth across the region has been evenly spread throughout the various LGAs).

  • Cairns Regional Council – 64%
  • Cassowary Coast Regional Council – 12%
  • Tablelands Regional Council – 10%
  • Mareeba Shire Council – 7%
  • Douglas Shire Council – 6%
  • Yarrabah Council – 1%

The Conus SALM Trend unemployment rates across the region in Sept were (with June in brackets)

  • Cairns Regional Council – 5.9% (5.8%)
  • Cassowary Coast Regional Council – 5.2% (5.7%)
  • Tablelands Regional Council – 6.7% (6.6%)
  • Mareeba Shire Council – 9.2% (9.4%)
  • Douglas Shire Council – 4.4% (4.7%)
  • Yarrabah Council – 44.9% (45.9%)

Townsville City Council sees the Trend unemployment rate at 8.2%, which is a reduction from 8.7% in June (although this was revised up from 8.2%).

IVS highlights problems for QLD and TNQ

The Sept 2017 International Visitor Survey from Tourism Research Australia (available for download here) makes for unhappy reading for the Queensland and the TNQ region in particular.

While total international visitors to Australia rose by 7.3% for the year to Sept 2017, the increase was just 3.0% for Queensland and a very lack-lustre 1.5% increase in the TNQ region. Even more disturbingly, trip expenditures rose 9.8% for the nation as a whole, were up 2.5% in Queensland (barely keeping up with inflation), and fell by 1.3% in TNQ.

With the Sunshine State losing market share we now see just 32.9% of all international visitors coming to Queensland (the lowest level ever recorded) and TNQ’s share falling to 11.1%, which is the lowest since Dec 2011 (before the flood of Chinese visitors really took off). We are awaiting more detailed breakdown of data for TNQ from TRA (which is not published in the usual channels) and will update once we receive this from them.

The stand out performance came from Tasmania which saw total visitor numbers rise by 17% and expenditure jump by 33%. Other states and territories to do well included NSW, Victoria and the ACT (see graphic below taken from the TRA IVS).

Job Seeker data shows slow improvements for Cairns

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.

Regional jobs show some reversal in the Far North

This morning’s release of the regional labour market data, as always, needs to be seen through the lens of the Conus Trend; and what it shows is something of a turn-around in the dramatic recovery that we’ve been witnessing in the North. This is perhaps not very surprising, although the fact that some of this reversal has now been in place for about 3 or 4 months would certainly suggest that the large declines in the unemployment rates in both Cairns and Townsville may have already hit their lows.

In the Cairns SA4 region the October data shows the Conus Trend employment level fell by 700 (after Sept’s decline was revised to 500 from 100). This brings employment reduction over the past four months to 1,400, although over the past 12 months employment remains up 5,400 (which represents a 4.9% rate of annual growth). Despite a minor decline in the Trend Participation Rate this drop in employment has seen the Trend unemployment rate in Cairns increase to 6.6% (after Sept was revised up sharply to 6.2%). This compares with a QLD Trend rate of 5.9%. It remains the case that the employment growth seen in Cairns over the past year is skewed heavily to full-time employment (up 8,900) with part-time employment down; all the declines in Oct were also due to part-time employment reductions.

To our south Townsville SA4 region has also seen a reversal. Trend employment fell by 400 (with full-time employment down 400). Nevertheless Trend employment is still up 14,000 from a year ago; a growth rate of 14.4% (the fastest pace of growth in QLD). Trend Participation has fallen somewhat and this has allowed the Trend unemployment rate to only edge up slightly to 8.3% (after the revisions in Sept saw the Trend unemployment rate fall to 8.1%). Unlike in Cairns, most of the employment growth has come from part-time employment in Townsville (at a ratio of about 2:1). This increase in Trend unemployment rate could well provide some last minute ammunition for candidates in some of the marginal Townsville region seats.


Interestingly, the Trend youth unemployment rates in Cairns and Townsville have now moved much closer together with the rate in Cairns going up to 16.2% (after Sept was revised up to 14.9%) while Townsville has fallen to 16.5% (after Sept was revised sharply down to 16.8%).

While the recent out-performance of the Rest of QLD against Greater Brisbane having been well documented (both here and elsewhere) it is interesting to see that divergence apparently easing somewhat. While the Rest of QLD employment growth at 5.1% y/y still exceeds that in Greater Brisbane (4.1%) this month sees the Trend unemployment rate for the Rest of QLD down 0.4% from a year ago while that in Greater Brisbane is now unchanged (having been up in previous months). The largest difference between the two areas remains the fact that full-time employment accounts for 76.6% of annual employment growth in the Rest of QLD; in Greater Brisbane that measure is just 10.1%.

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

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – Oct 2017


Dept of Employment SALM data confirms the improvement in the North

After yesterday’s ABS regional jobs data (see here) showed continued improvement in the labour force measures in the Cairns and Townsville SA4 areas, today we get the Dept of Employment’s, much awaited, quarterly Small Area Labour Market (SALM) data for the second quarter which allows us to consider data at the local government area level.

The SALM estimates are created using data from Centrelink of people in receipt of Newstart and Youth Allowance by postcode, the ABS regional labour market data at SA4 level and the Census labour force data at SA2 level. These data sets are used to create the SALM estimations using a methodology called Structure Preserving Estimation (SPREE). Due to the highly volatile nature of this data the Dept presents the data on a smoothed 4 quarters moving average basis for Local Government Areas. This creates a very lagged measure so we have utilised the original, un-smoothed  data (which is hidden away on the Dept website) to create a Conus Trend series for our local LGA regions.

This shows Trend SALM unemployment rates at 6.3% (unchanged from March) for Cairns Regional Council, a rate of 6.6% (down from 6.7% in March) for the Cassowary Coast Regional Council area and 8.2% (down from 9.1% in March) for the Townsville City Council area.

The Conus Trend analysis of the derived SALM employment data shows Cairns Regional Council area adding 5,900 employed for the year to June 2017, Cassowary Coast Regional Council area added 880 and Townsville City Council area added 5,600.

Note: Given the different methodologies used to calculate the two different series, comparisons between the SALM and ABS Labour Force data (and the derived Conus Trend data) need to be treated with caution.

Regional jobs data shows regional QLD employment growth at fastest pace in a decade

The ABS released their original, unadjusted regional labour force data for Sept this morning. We need to consider the Conus Trend series to make much sense of this highly volatile data series.

When we consider the split between the Greater Brisbane and Rest of Queensland areas we see that the recent trend of out-performance from the regions remains in place, although total employment growth in the capital was slightly better than the regions this month. The biggest divergence is seen when we consider full-time and part-time employment. Over the past year Greater Brisbane has added 38,200 to Trend employment, although all of those have been in part-time positions with full-time employment down 1,800. In the Rest of Queensland Trend employment has grown by 57,700 this year with fully 39,900 of those in the full-time sector.

Trend employment growth in the Rest of Queensland is now at 5.0%, which is the fastest pace in more than a decade. Greater Brisbane employment growth sits at 3.2%, which is still better than the national average of 2.8%.

In our own region we once again see the Trend unemployment rate in Cairns hovering around the 5% mark, the Sept Conus Trend unemployment rate sits at 5.2% (up slightly from a downwardly revised 5.2% last month). The Trend unemployment rate has been between 5.5% and 4.9% for the past 7 months with Trend employment stable this month but up 9,100 over the course of the year. As is the case for the Rest of Queensland, full-time employment has been the stand-out performing sector for Cairns with Trend full-time employment up 10,500 in the past 12 months (and up 600 this month) while part-time employment has dropped slightly.

Trend employment is growing at a very healthy 8.2% in Cairns.

To our south in Townsville there might be some concern that the recent stellar recovery is starting to look less resilient (at least so far as the headlines might be concerned). Trend employment edged higher (by 100) this month and remains up 15,500 higher over the past 12 months. However, the Trend unemployment rate is back up to 9.0% (after August was revised up to 8.5%) which may give some cause for concern. However, we should note that this is on the back of a rally in participation to levels not seen in more than  2 years.

Trend employment is growing at a state high of 16.0% in Townsville.

The youth sector, which has been of concern in the north for some time, now appears to have stabilised at more “normal” levels, at least in Cairns. Trend Youth Unemployment Rate now sits at 12.3% in Cairns (well below the rate in the Rest of Queensland and only slightly higher than in Greater Brisbane) with 2,700 Trend jobs added in the past year. In Townsville the sector has been a real cause for worry and continues to be, despite the overall recovery in the region. Trend Youth Unemployment Rate sits at 22.1% (the third worst in the state after Wide Bay and the Outback), despite having added 2,800 Trend jobs in the past year.

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

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – Sept 2017