Pete spoke to Pat Hession on ABC North Queensland on Thursday afternoon about the Townsville employment data which was released that morning. You can listen to the interview below and read our commentary here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today’s ABS regional labour force data for April needs to be looked at through the lens of the Conus Trend to make any real sense.
What the data shows us is Cairns slightly weaker while Townsville continues its trend of improvements (from a low base). The Conus Trend unemployment rate for Cairns now sits at 6.1% (up from 5.9% in March) which remains well below the 6.4% at a State level. Jobs remained virtually unchanged (less than 100 down) while the Trend participation rate eased to 61.6 (from 61.8). Over the course of the past 12 months Trend employment now sits 8,000 higher with annual employment growth of 7.4%. 6,000 of those new Trend jobs have been part-time with full-time up just 2,000.
To our south Townsville continues the trend of the past few months and sees good employment growth in April (up 1,700), although March’s gain was revised slightly lower (+1,800 from +2,200). The Trend unemployment rate now sits at 8.3% (down from 9.1% in March) but remains the second highest in the State. Over the past year Townsville has seen 9,800 new Trend jobs, which have come predominantly from full-time positions. Trend employment growth in Townsville now sits at 10.1%, which is the third fastest in the State.
Townsville is clearly recovering from the sharp downturn of last year, although it will be interesting to see whether uncertainty around the outcome of the Adani discussions (or the possible cancellation of the project) will impact jobs and confidence in coming months.
The Cairns Trend youth unemployment rate (which even after Trending remains a highly volatile series) sits at 16.1% up from 14.7% in March (which was in turn revised sharply higher). In Townsville the rate is 19.1% but this is now only the third highest rate in the State.
The full set of Conus Trend data 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.
A piece in today’s Australian (read it here) perpetuates the old news that youth unemployment in Cairns is running at crisis levels. In this case the article quotes Cairns youth unemployment rate at 27.5%. As regular readers will know, this figure would appear to be the “official” 12 month moving average of the unadjusted original ABS data. The article quotes a Treasury document prepared for the Queensland government “late last year” at which time the 12 month moving average youth unemployment rate was about the quoted 27.5% level.
However, this extremely lagged measure of unemployment can be improved upon by utilising the Conus Trend which, at the end of last year, already had Trend Youth unemployment in Cairns down to 14.0%; and has subsequently fallen further still.
The problem with this focus on the 12 month moving average data can be seen clearly when we consider the most recent (March) data. The “official” 12 month moving average number remains elevated at 21.6% (note this is already a sharp decline from the number quoted in The Australian’s article today) but the Conus Trend sits at just 10.2%. With the “official” data still telling us that youth unemployment remains very high in Cairns, it is worth noting that the ABS original data hasn’t had a rate above 17.5% for 6 months and the most recent reading was just 7.3% (the lowest in almost 5 years). The 12 month moving average is simply not responsive enough to changes in the underlying data to allow for sensible decisions and positions to be taken based upon it.
In the past 6 months the original average level of youth unemployment in Cairns is just 12.4%. If nothing significant happens with regard to youth employment in the next six months then by September the Treasury will be reporting youth unemployment in Cairns at just 12.4% and those who believed the “official” numbers will be scratching their heads wondering what on earth happened since March to bring it down so sharply from 21.6%! In fact nothing will have happened during that period; the improvement had already happened but their data hadn’t picked it up.
I fully accept that our Trend estimates are subject to revision and the scale of the improvement seen over recent months may well be exaggerated, and therefore liable to revision, but the fact remains that to suggest that youth unemployment in Cairns is still at crisis levels is simply misleading.
The Treasury report from the end of 2016 is quoted as saying that “there has been a relatively slow pick-up in labour-market demand” in Cairns. If we are only considering the lagged Treasury 12 month moving average data that may well be true. But since July last year those with an eye on the Conus Trend employment data for Cairns have been well aware of a significant pick-up in jobs which, even as early as the end of last year, had identified almost 8,000 new jobs over the previous 5 months; with another 1,000 added since.
It’s time that the Treasury and media stopped pushing the old, tired news that Cairns is some kind of employment black-hole when the reality proves different. This kind of negative reporting and thinking not only leads to bad policy making but it also negatively impacts sentiment in the region, an impediment to future improvements.
We’ve just returned from a couple of weeks in SE Asia so have some catching up to do. First thing on the agenda was the labour force data for March released last week. We saw the headline (seasonally adjusted) unemployment rate remain stable at 5.9% despite a very sharp addition of 60,900 new jobs; the reason an increase in the Participation Rate to 64.8. The much stronger jobs number came after the Feb data was revised to a 2,800 increase (rather than a 6,400 drop). Even more positively, full time employment was up a thumping 74,500 for the month.
The rather less dramatic, and therefore preferred, Trend measure was also better with 16,500 new jobs added (Feb was revised higher to +17,700 from +11,600) although the Trend unemployment rate actually nudged higher to 5.9% (from 5.8%) on the back of those higher PR numbers. However you look at it, this is a strong set of data for the nation. Seasonally adjusted employment is now up 145,900 over the past 12 months with 67,800 of those full time positions.
Queensland also saw improvements. The headline data showed an extra 28,800 new jobs (of which 33,100 were full time) and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped sharply to 6.3% (from a revised 6.6% in Feb). Participation was also much firmer at 64.6 (up from 64.1) and this will have stopped the unemployment rate dropping even further.
The Trend series also improved with 4,400 new jobs and Feb revised from +1,600 to +4,300. March’s increase in Trend employment is the strongest since Dec 2015. As the second chart below makes clear, things are certainly improving in the Sunshine State. Further analysis of the QLD data can be found from Gene Tunny at Adept Economics here and here.
The regional labour force data which was released this morning makes some very interesting reading. We shall be spending more time analysing the data tomorrow; but having crunched the numbers and formulated the Conus Trend series a number of major points become obvious.
Regional QLD is rapidly closing the gap on Greater Brisbane
In March, Trend employment in the Rest of Queensland was up 3,800 while Greater Brisbane could manage just 700 (note that totals may not add to the ABS Trend data due to rounding). Even more significantly, the Rest of Queensland increase included 3,000 full time positions while Greater Brisbane added just 100. Over the course of the past 6 months Greater Brisbane has shed 10,300 full time positions while the Rest of Queensland has added 9,300; and almost all of these are coming from the Bush (i.e. Rest of Queensland minus SEQ). Regions that have contributed to this growth are Townsville (see commentary below) which added 8,100; Wide Bay +4,100, Mackay +3,000, Cairns +2,400 and Toowoomba +1,400.
Townsville’s recovery is well underway
There can now be little doubt that things have turned a corner in Townsville. Trend employment was up 2,200 in March, this is the 8th consecutive month of Trend increases. The Trend unemployment rate has fallen sharply to 9.3%, although it remains the second highest in the State (after Outback at 12.8%). Employment growth over the past 12 months (admittedly from a weak base) now sits at +7.6% pa and is the third best in the State.
However, in spite of this solid employment growth the number in jobs remains well below the highs seen back in 2011.
The improvements in Cairns remain on track
Last month saw some deterioration in the Cairns Trend data on the back of a weak original number. We cautioned at the time reading too much into one month’s numbers and suggested that things could well get revised later. That has indeed happened with a return to some good numbers in March. Trend employment rose just 100 (Feb was revised to +200) but the Trend unemployment for Feb was revised sharply lower to 5.7% and has edged slightly higher this month to 5.8%. One month of a small worsening tells us next to nothing. What the data shows us over the past 12 months is that Trend employment in Cairns has been increasing at an average of about 670 per month and the unemployment rate has fallen from 9.1% to 5.8%.
Of particular interest is the level of Trend youth unemployment which has now fallen below the levels seen in Greater Brisbane and sits at just 10.2%. The scale of this decline needs to be treated with a great deal of caution (high volatility within the sub-set Trend series is to be expected) but, nevertheless, it is clear that the issue of very high youth unemployment in Cairns can no longer be touted as a major concern.
The complete Conus Trend data set for regional Queensland is available for download below (free for non-commercial use). Please feel free to use the data but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.
The ABS released their regional labour force data for February this morning. As always, the original, unadjusted ABS data needs some analysis if we are to see a clear picture. Our preferred analysis tool is the Conus Trend series. In light of the generally weak QLD data for Feb released last week (see here for commentary) there is little surprise that we see some weakness in the regional data today.
In Cairns, after 7 months of Trend employment gains, Feb sees a small reduction of 100 to 115,000. Despite the Feb dip, Cairns has added 6,600 new jobs over the past 12 months. The Trend Participation Rate (PR) also increased in Feb (to 62.3 from 62.0) to its highest level in more than three years. This move up in Participation is the main reason for a move up in the Trend unemployment rate even though employment was barely weaker. The Conus Trend unemployment rate moved higher to 6.8% (from an upwardly revised 6.5% in Jan).
Although the Trend unemployment rate in Cairns has now moved higher for 2 months, we would caution against reading too much into that fact. The increases have come in the face of a sharp move upwards in the Trend Participation Rate over the past 5 months; such an increase in PR will always make bringing the unemployment rate lower a tough ask but points towards a more buoyant labour market in general. We would also note that, given the nature of these Trend figures, we recommend seeing at least 3 months of a change in direction before jumping to conclusions. All things considered, we still believe the labour market in Cairns is firm and that we are likely to see the Trend employment levels and unemployment rate reflect that in coming months (perhaps with these weaker months seeing revisions to come).
In Townsville the modest improvements we have noted in the past few months have continued in Feb. Trend employment increased by 900 in Feb (the same as in Jan) and finally sees the 12 month total for Townsville move slightly positive (+300 over the year). We have now seen Trend employment increase for the past 8 months (albeit modestly) which would appear to confirm the improving story. Trend PR in Townsville has also increased (to 60.4 from 60.0) although this is still well below where it sat just 18 months ago. Despite the increase in PR the Townsville Trend unemployment rate has continued to drop and now stands at 10.6% (down from 11.2% in Jan). Nevertheless, Townsville remains the region with QLD’s highest Trend unemployment rate.
As the second chart below makes clear, the recovery in Cairns has been complete while Townsville still has a long way to go.
When we consider the issue of full-time and part-time employment we see that the disparity that had been opened between Greater Brisbane and the Rest of QLD has started to close. In the past four months the Rest of Queensland has added about 4,000 full-time positions while Greater Brisbane has lost about 10,000. All the same, over the past 12 months Greater Brisbane has still lost only 11,700 full-time jobs while the Rest of Queensland has lost 28,500. The gap is closing but there is still a way to go.
In Cairns full-time jobs are up 1,400 over the year while Townsville has also registered an extra 1,400.
Youth unemployment in the North remains a problem although some improvements are also being seen here. Cairns Trend youth unemployment rate increased slightly in Feb to 15.3% but is still down 16.1% from a year earlier. Over the 12 months we have seen youth employment increase by 2,800. Unfortunately in Townsville things are worse. The Trend youth unemployment rate now stands at 26.6% which is 12.7% higher than a year before. Youth employment has fallen in Townsville by 8,500 over the year.
The full set of Conus Trend data for all the QLD SA4 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.
Today saw the release of the ABS Regional Labour Force data. As always, we focus on our own Conus Trend series to see through the highly volatile original, unadjusted ABS data; and what we see is more good news for the North.
In Cairns Trend employment has lifted by another 700 to 116,100 while the data for Dec was also revised stronger. Over the course of the past 12 months we have seen an extra 8,000 Trend jobs in Cairns. With the Trend Participation Rate moving higher again to a new 3 year high (61.7) we also see a slight upward revision to the Trend unemployment rate which now stands at 5.9% (unchanged from Dec); this is below the State at 6.1% and the Rest of Queensland which sits at 6.5%. Full time positions in Cairns are also on the way up; Trend full time jobs increased 1,000 in Jan and are up 4,100 over the past 12 months.
To our south in Townsville, with an increase of 600 in Trend employment, the Trend unemployment rate has fallen to 11.8% (after Dec was revised up to 12.1%). This remains the worst in the State. Over the course of the past year Townsville has lost 3,100 Trend jobs of which 2,100 have been full time (despite an increase of 600 in Jan). Trend participation has also risen here, although it remains historically low.
As the second chart below makes clear the labour market situation in Cairns has recovered extremely well over the past 8 months. Townsville still has a long way to go.
When we consider the youth sector in particular we again see evidence of improvement in Cairns. Youth Trend unemployment has fallen again to 14.3% (from highs of almost 35% 9 months ago) with an extra 4,000 Trend youth jobs over the course of the year. Cairns now sits in 7th place in the State for youth unemployment.
Townsville is not so lucky. The Trend youth unemployment rate now sits at 29.5% (down slightly from 29.8% in Jan which was revised up from 28.4%) and is second only to the Outback in the State. Over the course of the last 12 months Trend youth employment has fallen by 7,900 (although, always, we would recommend extreme caution when looking at data from these small sub-sets).
Despite the divergence between Greater Brisbane and the Rest of Queensland having eased somewhat over recent months, the disparity is still dramatic. Over the past year Greater Brisbane has lost 7,100 Trend jobs of which 6,700 have been full time. The Rest of Queensland, on the other hand, has lost 21,000 Trend jobs but a thumping 33,700 full time positions.
The full Conus Trend QLD Regional Jobs data set is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data (for non-commercial use) but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.
The Dec 2016 ABS original data for regional labour markets was released this morning and, upon analysis of the Conus Trend series, we see further confirmation of the stronger picture in the Cairns SA4 region. Even the Townsville region, whilst still very weak, sees some slight improvements.
In Cairns the Conus Trend unemployment rate has fallen for the 7th consecutive month and now stands at just 5.7% (which is below the 6% rate for QLD and the same as the Trend rate for the nation). Trend employment has increased by 600 (although all this increase comes from part-time jobs this month and the increase last month was revised slightly lower). Nevertheless Trend employment is now 4,800 higher than a year earlier. The rate of Trend employment growth stands at +4.4% for the year; this is the 3rd best result in the State.
To our south the Townsville region also saw some improvements. Trend employment was up 100 (after Nov was revised to a 200 increase from a 200 decline); Trend employment still remains down 6,300 over the year (a rate of -6.1% which is the third worst in the State). On the bright side, Trend full-time positions were up 400 in Dec, although they remain down 4,200 over the year. The Trend unemployment rate has improved to 11.8% (with Nov also revised better to 12.1%) but this is still the State’s highest rate of unemployment.
As the second chart makes abundantly clear, the recovery for Cairns is now well established. In Townsville there is still a very long way to go…but at least things appear to be moving in the right direction.
When considering the youth sector we again see sharp improvements for Cairns. Youth Trend employment rose by 800 in Dec which is the 6th consecutive month of gains and puts the total 2,200 above its level at the end of 2015. The Youth Trend unemployment rate now stands at 16.5% and has fallen from its high of 34.4% earlier this year.
In Townsville the Youth sector has been seeing a lot of weakness recently and Dec is no different. Youth Trend employment fell by 300 (the 9th consecutive month of declines) and is down 6,200 for the year. The Trend Youth unemployment rate has moved higher to 28.3% (while Nov was revised lower to 28.1%) and this remains the second worst in the State after the Outback. Of just as much concern for the region is the high level of Middle-aged unemployment; the Trend unemployment rate in the 25-44 year aged group is now the State’s worst at 12.3% (up from 12.1% in Nov).
We’ve been watching the story of a two speed labour market unfolding in QLD for some time and this month’s data reinforces that trend. When we look at full-time Trend employment we see a widening gap opening up between Greater Brisbane (where full-time jobs have increased by 13,500 over the year) and the Rest of QLD (where they have fallen by 43,200). The Government’s focus on “regional jobs” appears to be taking its time to have any real impact!
The complete set of Conus Trend data for the QLD Regions is available for download below. Please feel free to use this for non-commercial use but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so.