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

 

No sign of improvement in Far North Building Approvals

This morning we saw the release of the ABS original regional building approvals data for June. As always, we need to consider this volatile series in light of the Conus Trend to make much sense of it.

In the SA4 regions of Cairns and Townsville there was little to get excited about. The Conus Trend for residential approvals in Cairns in June rose slightly to 81, but only after May was revised down from 86 to 80. In Townsville the Conus Trend remained stable at 79, although May was revised down from 86.

As we noted last week (see here), the tide for approvals appears to have turned somewhat in Queensland in recent months but analysis of the Conus Trend data shows us that the improvement is all coming in Greater Brisbane with the Rest of Queensland stable at best. In the past 6 months Trend approvals in Greater Brisbane are up 28% to 2,055 while in the Rest of Queensland they have fallen 4% to 1,486.

Within the Greater Brisbane area hot-spots in the past 6 months have been Brisbane-West (+82%), Brisbane-Inner City (+118%), Moreton Bay-North (+34%) and Moreton Bay-South (+45%).

Looking at the Local Government Areas in the Far North we see the Cairns Regional Council (incl Douglas Shire) area Trend at 57 (unchanged from an upwardly revised May); Cassowary Coast Regional Council Trend stable at 5 (after May was revised down from 6); Tablelands Regional Council (incl Mareeba Shire) Trend unchanged at 18. To our south Townsville City Council Trend came in at 69 (down from 71 in May which was itself revised down from 75).

The full set of Conus Trend data for the SA4 areas in QLD is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data (for non-commercial purposes) but we appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.

Conus Trend Building Approvals QLD – June 2017

 

Time for ABS to step up with better data for the regions

For years we have been bemoaning the lack of quality data provided by the ABS at a regional (SA4) level. In particular the labour market data has been a major gripe of ours. How can we expect State and Local Governments to be making sensible policy decisions when they are fed sub-standard data on which to base those decisions?

At a State and National level the ABS provide Labour Force data on a seasonally adjusted (often taken as the “headline” number) and Trend basis. The ABS are very clear in their message that the Trend series, although not as headline grabbing as the seasonally adjusted, is the preferred measure. We agree.

However, when it comes to the regional data the Labour Force data is presented in its raw, unadjusted, original state. The ABS caution against using the monthly original data (as they should) and instead point users to the 12 month averages (which they also now helpfully provide for those unable to add up and divide by 12). These annual averages are taken as the “official” data for the regions and they are used by the Queensland Government Statistician’s Office, among others, in their regional labour market briefings. The problem here is that these annual averages are all but useless as an indicator about what is actually happening now, or at least in the recent past. Certainly no one would suggest that the annual average data was “good enough” at a State or National level; and certainly no one would accept it if that was presented as the basis for decision making.

The latest ABS Labour Force data for June gives us a good idea of the scale of the problem.

Consider the question “what is happening to employment in Queensland at the moment?”

To answer that question any sensible soul would head straight to the ABS Trend data for June and there they would discover that Trend employment in Queensland sits at 2,391,400 and has risen by 43,300 over the past year.

But if we wished to dig a little deeper and see where those gains were then we’re in trouble.

A look at the ABS annual average data for June tells us that Greater Brisbane has 1,182,900 people employed; a number which is up by 3,500 in the year. The Rest of Queensland employs 1,177,400 and has seen employment fall by 3,600 in the 12 months. How can this be right? Employment at only 2,360,300 (31,100 lower than the Trend) and having fallen by 100 over the year!?

This is why we created the Conus Trend and, despite some reasonable concerns about volatility in the underlying data, we are convinced that it is a major step towards a better understanding of regional labour forces. The Conus Trend for June shows employment in Greater Brisbane at 1,192,700 having risen 11,700 over the year. The Rest of Queensland stands at 1,198,800 and is up 31,700 for the year. That is a very different story to the “official” one told by the ABS annual average but is consistent with the ABS Trend data for Queensland.

At a regional level the differences can also be stark.

  • In Cairns the annual average has employment up 6,300 for the year and the unemployment rate at 6.3%. The Conus Trend is much stronger with employment growth of 12,700 and an unemployment rate of 5.3%.
  • A similar story emerges in Townsville where the “official” unemployment rate is 9.7% while we estimate it at 7.5%.
  • And it’s not all one way; in Fitzroy the annual average shows a loss of 1,500 jobs for the year while the Trend estimates it as a 8,900 fall.

The point, I hope, is clear. The “official” annual average data is in no way reflective of the reality on the ground and therefore cannot be a sensible basis for decision making.

I understand that the ABS has limited resources and feels unable to complete the work required at a SA4 level to provide a series they are happy with. I can appreciate that problem (although at Conus we too have only limited resources and yet have managed to do the work for QLD, NSW and Victoria!…see the full data sets here), but what about taking a preliminary step and providing ABS Trend data at the “Capital and Rest of State” level? Such a move would indicate a genuine commitment from the ABS to the provision of better regional data (and therefore decision making) and provide State and Local governments with a far better idea about what is going on in their Labour Markets.

We’re encouraged that many more people are now using the Conus Trend data that we make available but frankly would prefer to see the ABS step into the breech, even if only in a limited way, and help out the regions.

Regional jobs data shows Cairns powering ahead

Today’s release by the ABS of regional jobs data, and our own Conus Trend analysis of that unadjusted data, shows Cairns powering ahead with the Trend unemployment rate falling to 5.3%. This is the lowest rate the region has seen since September 2008. Trend jobs have increased by 1,300 since May and are up 12,700 on the year. Of those 7,800 have come in full-time positions with the Trend Participation rate increasing to 63.0, its highest level since October 2013.

Townsville, despite adding just 900 more jobs this month, sees Trend unemployment at 7.5% (down from 7.8% in May, although this was revised sharply higher from 6.3% in original estimates). Over the past year Townsville has added 13,400 new Trend jobs (coming from a low base) with 10,000 of those being full-time.

The regions generally have done better than Greater Brisbane with the Trend unemployment rate in the Rest of Qld falling to 6.0% while Greater Brisbane has risen to 6.7% (Trend rates in Qld now stand at 6.3% and 5.6% across the nation). Over the year the Rest of Queensland has added 31,700 new jobs (22,300 of which have been full-time) while Greater Brisbane has added just 11,700 new Trend jobs (while losing 8,200 full-time jobs).

The employment to population ratios in both Cairns and Townsville show the significant recovery the 2 regions have seen over the past year.

Note..CORRECTED. Youth unemployment in Cairns has risen slightly to 12.6% (although May’s number was revised down from 12.5%) with the addition of 3,400 youth jobs over the past year. Youth unemployment in Townsville has dipped to 18.4% (after May was revised up to 18.9%) although the region has lost 800 Trend youth jobs in the year.

The full set of Conus Trend Jobs for the Qld regions 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 Jobs QLD – June 2017

Regional Building Approvals data shows some improvement in the North

The ABS released their regional (unadjusted) building approvals data this morning for May; we have constructed our own Conus Trend data and they show some improvement across the North.

When we consider the data at the SA4 level we see that the Conus Trend has Cairns approvals up to 86 (after April was revised up to 84) and Townsville also up to 87 (again, April was revised higher to 85).

Across the state as a whole Trend approvals were up in Greater Brisbane, although they remain down 18.2% for the year, at 1,958. In the Rest of Queensland the Trend dipped to 1,563 and is down 14.8% for the year. Commentary on the QLD data released last week is here where we note that QLD generally did better in May; clearly that was due to improvements in Greater Brisbane rather than the regions.. 

In our own region we also see some small improvements across the Local Government Areas. The Cairns Regional Council (incl Douglas Shire) see Trend approvals edge higher to 53 (after April was revised up from 43). The Cassowary Coast Regional Council now sits at 6 (after April was revised up from 5) while the Tablelands Regional Council (incl Mareeba Shire) are now at 18 (after April was revised up from 17). To our South Townsville continues to see improvements with Trend approvals in May at 75 after April was revised up from 73.

The complete set of Conus Trends for the SA4 Regions in QLD is available for download below. 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 – May 2017

 

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.