Business count data shows Cairns up, Cassowary Coast unchanged

Data from the ABS released today shows the total number of businesses for the 2016-17 financial year. When we consider Cairns (which in this case we take as the SA3 areas of Cairns-North and Cairns-South) we see that the total number of businesses grew by 177 (or 1.3%) in 2016-17 from the previous year to 13,809. The greatest number of businesses in the area are in the Construction sector (2,548 in total) although this is barely changed from the previous year. Other important sectors are Rental, Hiring & Real Estate (1,663 in total) which fell by 5% over the year. Professional Services (1,332 in total) were up 3.8% while Retail (856 in total) fell by 1.0%.

The sectors seeing the fastest growth were Information, Media & Telecommunications (113 in total) up 21.5%; Arts & Recreation (157) up 15.4%; Wholesale (345) up 10.9% and Healthcare & Social Assistance (809) up 5.6%. Evidence of the improvement in the tourism sector generally can be seen in Accommodation & Food businesses growing by 3.3% and Transport up 3.6%; although as noted above Retail fell slightly.

In the Cassowary Coast region (in this case made up of the Johnstone, Innisfail and Tully SA2 areas) we see total business numbers were virtually unchanged at 3,123 (up 0.5%). Agriculture remains by far the largest sector (1,100 businesses) and this also rose by 0.5%. Increases were seen in Healthcare (80 in total) up 17.6%; Education & Training (26 in total) up 23.8% and Accommodation & Food (141 in total) up 8.5%.  Falls were seen in Construction (432 businesses) down 3.8% and Retail (157 in total) down 4.3%.

Within the region we see that businesses numbers grew by 23 (1.8%) in the Tully SA2 area (incl Tully, Cardwell and Mission Beach) but fell by 6 (0.3%) in the Innisfail and Johnstone SA2 areas.

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%).

Building Approvals jump in the Far North

The ABS released their (original, unadjusted) residential building approvals at the SA4 and LGA level this morning; and they reveal good news for the Far North. As always, this highly volatile data set needs to be seen through the lens of the Conus Trend to make any real sense of it.

When we consider the data at the SA4 level we see the original data for Cairns up at a more-than-9-year high. However, even when looking at the Conus Trend we see a significantly improved story. Trend approvals increase to 107 in August after July was revised sharply higher to 103. Trend residential approvals are now up 15.9% y/y; the best result since March 2015.

Unfortunately, to our south in the Townsville SA4 region things are not as rosy. Here Trend approvals fell in August to 75 after July was revised slightly lower to 77. Year-on-year Trend approvals are down 7.4%.

As the second chart below makes clear. the recent recovery in approvals across the state is coming largely from Greater Brisbane with the Rest of Queensland still lagging well behind.

We can also consider the Conus Trend data for the LGAs within the Cairns SA4 region and here we see that the improvements have been seen in Cairns Regional, Cassowary Coast Regional and Tablelands Regional Council areas. Cairns Regional Council Conus Trend approvals (incl Douglas Shire) rose to 77 in August after July was revised strongly higher to 76; year-on-year this represents a 30.3% increase. In the Cassowary Coast Regional Council (where the original data saw a higher number of approvals than in any month since June 2005) the Trend rose to 9 which is a 44.8% y/y increase. On the Tablelands (Tablelands Regional plus Mareeba Shire Councils) Trend approvals also rose to 21 after July was revised stronger; however approvals remain down 6.4% from a year ago.

In the Townsville City Council area Trend approvals fell to 69 after July was revised lower to 71; they are now down 5.5% from a year ago.

The full set of Conus Trend Residential Building Approvals for all the SA4 regions in Queensland is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data (for non-commercial purposes) but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do.

Conus Trend Regional Building Approvals QLD – Aug 2017

Regional Building Approvals; no joy for the North

The release of the regional building approvals data by the ABS today allows us to update our Conus Trend series for the SA4 and Local Govt Areas.

What we find is a story of slightly weaker, but generally stable, approvals in the North. The Cairns SA4 region sees Trend approvals stable at 77 after June was revised down from 80. Townsville SA4 falls slightly to 79 after June was revised up from 78 to 80. The picture at the LGA level is similar.

Cairns Regional Council (incl. Douglas Shire) fell to 53 after June was revised down from 56 to 54. Cassowary Coast Regional Council was stable at 6 after June was revised up from 5, Tablelands Regional Council (incl Mareeba Shire) was stable at 18 and Townsville City Council was also stable at 72, although June was revised up from 68.

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

Conus Trend Regional Building Approvals QLD – Jul 2017

The Cassowary Coast Budget…a closer look

The Cassowary Coast Regional Council brought down their 2017-18 Budget earlier this week with a 1.65% general rate increase and balanced budgets projected into the future. Much was also made of the Council’s decision to pay off some $19 million of debt early to become debt-free as of this year. What has not perhaps been so well publicised is the fact that the 2016-17 Budget, which had been forecast as balanced, looks likely to have registered a $3.5 million deficit as a result of that decision.

Looking at the actual expected result for 2016-17 compared to the Budget last year we see that Revenues are slightly higher (approx $700,000)  while Expenditures are approximately $4,200,000 higher. When we look more closely we see that the reason for the difference is $3,600,000 more finance costs paid to QTC; presumably early repayment fees incurred when the debt was repaid. So while the Council has indeed become debt-free it comes at a cost.

Running down the cash reserves to pay off the debt has two counteracting effects. Firstly it reduces the amount of interest payable by Council in future years, but secondly it decreases the interest earned by Council on those cash reserves. Using the 10 year projections in the Budget we see that the combined effect of the reduction in interest paid will be approx $7,700,000 over the decade. However, we also note that projected interest earned falls by $4,000,000 over the same period. When we add the $3,600,000 early repayment costs incurred this year we can see that over the decade the net effect is virtually zero. In addition it’s worth noting that the 2017-18 Budget projects the Council to borrow approx $4 million by the end of 2018-19 rising to just under $11 million by 2022-23; the Council won’t be debt-free for long.

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with making this decision. But we should be clear that over the long term it really does nothing for our financial position (indeed in the short term the upfront early repayment fee actually costs us; things don’t balance out until the end of the decade). In addition we should be aware that while Council is debt free for now, its own Budget projections have that situation lasting only a couple of years.

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.

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.

Regional Building Approvals improve slightly in the North

Today saw the release of the March regional building approvals data from the ABS at both SA4 and LGA level. Following the (very) modest improvement in the Trend data at a state level last week (see here for details) we have seen a similar story emerge in the Far North.

Starting with the SA4 level data we see the Cairns Conus Trend improve to 77, after Feb was revised up from 71 to 75. Townsville fell very slightly to 70, but only after Feb was revised up from 67 to 71.

At the Local Government level we also see improvements. Cairns Regional Council (incl Douglas Shire) improved to 49 (Feb revised to 47 from 40). Tablelands Regional Council (incl Mareeba Shire) dipped to 18 (Feb revised up from 18 to 19). The Cassowary Coast Regional Council was unchanged at 6 while Townsville City Council was also unchanged at 67 (although Feb was revised up to 67 from 62).

Looking at the split across the State we see that this generally positive move in the North has occurred in the face of a somewhat weaker picture across the Rest of Queensland.

The full SA4 data set for the Conus Trend series for Queensland is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data (for non-commercial uses) but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.

Conus Trend Regional Building Approvals QLD – March 2017

Little joy for the North in the Regional Building Approvals data

We’ve only now had time to crunch the numbers for the February regional building approvals data (released while we were on holiday a few weeks ago), but it doesn’t provide any joy for the North.

Considering the SA4 regional data first, the Conus Trend series for Cairns shows a slight improvement to 71 (after Jan was revised up from 69 to 70), this is still 35.8% below the level of a year ago. In Townsville the Conus Trend fell slightly to 67 (although Jan was revised from 66 to 68).

The complete data set for the Conus Trend Regional Building Approvals at the SA4 level is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data (for non-commercial purposes) but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.

Conus Trend Regional Building Approvals QLD – Feb 2017

At the Local Government Area level the story is a similar one. The Townsville City Council saw approvals dip to 62 (from 63), a decline of 4.6% for the year. In Cairns Regional Council (including Douglas Shire) the Trend was stable at 40, down 47.5% for the year. The Cassowary Coast was also stable at 6 (although only after Jan was revised up from 4) but remains down 23.8% from a year earlier. The Tablelands (including Mareeba) fell to 18 (from an unrevised 19 in Jan) and is down 21.2% from a year ago.

Regional population estimates show North lagging rest of QLD, Cairns-North still doing well.

The ABS have released their regional population estimates (up to mid year 2016) today and they show the North of the state lagging recent growth elsewhere. The data is provided at the Local Government Area (LGA) level as well at SA2 and above. Taking the LGA data first…

LGA 2016 est annual change % decade change %
Cairns 161,932 +1.0 +22.8
Douglas 11,844 +1.5 +12.5
Cassowary Coast 28,721 +0.1 +0.4
Tablelands 25,054 +0.3 +7.9
Mareeba 22,029 +0.9 +17.5
Townsville 195,914 +1.0 +22.8
QLD 4,843,303 +1.4 +20.8

While Cairns and Townsville have outpaced QLD growth over the past decade, that out-performance has now ceased with growth just 70% of the state average in the past year. The Cassowary Coast has finally returned to positive territory (although only just!) while the Tablelands Regional Council area has also been weak.

If we break the Far North (i.e. Cairns SA4) data down even further we can see quite a diverse range of outcomes across the region.

SA4 SA3 SA2 est change annual % change decade %
Cairns     246,110 +0.8 +17.3
Cairns-North 53,709 +1.7 +31.2
Brinsmead 5,666 +0.7 +8.9
Clifton Beach – Kewarra Beach 11,642 +2.1 +40.5
Freshwater – Stratford 4,058 +1.0 +10.5
Redlynch 12,733 +1.3 +35.0
Trinity Beach – Smithfield 13,216 +3.2 +60.4
Yorkeys Knob – Machans Beach 6,394 +0.6 +5.0
Cairns-South 104,790 +0.7 +20.1
Bentley Park 8,458 +0.2 +50.4
Cairns City 11,203 +1.3 +31.7
Earlville – Bayview Heights 8,721 +0.5 +4.1
Edmonton 11,224 +1.2 +35.8
Gordonvale – Trinity 8,890 +0.5 +28.3
Kanimbla – Mooroobool 10,184 +1.4 +15.1
Manoora 6,172 -0.1 +5.9
Manunda 5,450 +0.1 +3.6
Mount Sheridan 8,706 +0.2 +18.5
Westcourt – Bungalow 7,012 +1.0 +23.0
White Rock 4,887 +0.3 +22.6
Whitfield – Edge Hill 8,580 +0.3 +2.4
Woree 5,303 +1.7 +25.5
Innisfail-Cassowary Coast 34,843 +0.1 +0.4
Babinda 4,134 -0.5 -5.1
Innisfail 9,534 -0.2 -1.3
Johnstone 7,704 -0.7 -0.3
Tully 10,779 +1.1 +2.7
Yarrabah 2,689 +0.1 +9.0
Port Douglas-Daintree 11,787 +1.5 +12.4
Daintree 6,277 +0.9 +2.5
Port Douglas 5,510 +2.3 +26.3
Tablelands (East)-Kuranda 40,981 +0.5 +12.7
Atherton 11,050 +1.0 +15.5
Herberton 5,706 -0.4 +3.0
Kuranda 4,766 +0.3 +25.9
Malanda – Yungaburra 8,306 -0.2 +2.3
Mareeba 11,153 +1.1 +19.3

Cairns North, and in particular Trinity Beach, Clifton Beach and Redlynch, has been the stand-out growth area over the past decade, with Trinity and Clifton Beach still growing faster than average last year. In the south, Edmonton and Gordonvale have seen rapid growth over the past 10 years.

Outside of Cairns, Port Douglas has done well over the decade and continues to outperform the region as a whole. In the Cassowary Coast the only area to see growth at all over the 10 years was Tully (which includes Tully, Mission Beach and Cardwell) with the areas around Innisfail all falling. (Although Yarrabah is in the Innisfail-Cassowary Coast SA3 it is not in the Cassowary Coast Regional Council area. Babinda, likewise, is in the Cairns Regional Council area.)