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


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%).

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

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

Cairns population growth beats Townsville in past decade; but both fall behind QLD

Data released today for Estimated Resident Populations in regional areas shows the population of the Cairns SA4 region climbed 18.1% in the decade to June 30th 2016 reaching 247,762. This was somewhat faster than estimated growth in Townsville SA4 which was +16% to 235,037.

However, both regions fell behind growth in the state which was 21% to 4,848,877.

Estimates for the Local Government Areas as at 30th June 2016 are;

Cairns Regional Council; 162,451

Douglas Shire; 11,997

Tablelands Regional Council; 25,312

Mareeba Shire; 22,157

Cassowary Coast Regional Council; 29,396

Townsville City Council; 192,058

Note: ERP figures are not equivalent to the 2016 Census data as the ERP includes estimates for Australian residents overseas as at June 30th, an allowance for Census under-count, relate to different dates (the 2016 Census was completed on 9th August), and does not include foreign short-term visitors to Australia.

Regional Jobs; more good news for the North

Today we saw the release of the ABS regional jobs unadjusted data for July. As always, we have to consider the Conus Trend data to make much sense of this highly volatile data-set; and what that shows us is a continuing good-news story in the North.

Trend employment in the Cairns SA4 region has increased by 800 in July to 120,200. The Trend unemployment rate has remained stable at 5.0% (but only after June was revised down from 5.3%). Trend Participation has also increased to 63.1 and is now at its highest level since Oct 2013. Over the year a total of 12,500 extra people are employed with 9,700 of those in the form of full-time employment.

In Townsville the ongoing recovery continues with Trend employment increasing by another 1,000 in July to 111,200. This is an increase of 15,700 over the past 12 months with 9,500 of those full-time positions. Trend unemployment has fallen again to 6.3% which is the region’s lowest since Nov 2013. Participation in Townsville has also increased in July to 62.7. Trend employment growth in Townsville now sits an annual rate of 16.5%, the highest in the state and well above the state average of 2.7%.

As we have been seeing for some time, the regions are beating Greater Brisbane in the race for jobs. The Rest of Queensland has added 45,100 Trend employment in the past 12 months while Greater Brisbane is up just 18,900. Trend employment growth in Greater Brisbane is running at 1.6% pa while in the Rest of Queensland it sits at 3.9%. More starkly, full-time employment in the Rest of Queensland is up 33,800 over the period while it has fallen by 12,700 in the capital.

Youth unemployment remains a concern in Townsville where the Trend rate of unemployment in the 15-24 year old cohort has increased to 18.7% (3rd highest in the state) despite 1,000 more Trend employed in the age group. In Cairns Trend youth unemployment also nudged higher to 11.5% in July but only after June was revised sharply lower from 12.6%; the region has added 3,300 new Trend employment in the group over the past 12 months.

The full Conus Trend data-set is available for free download below (for non-commercial use). We would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you use it.

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – July 2017