Regional Jobs shows Cairns slightly weaker; Townsville further improved

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 Trend unemployment rate in Greater Brisbane edged sightly higher to 6.3% while it sits at 6.5% for the Rest of Queensland.

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.

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – Apr 2017

Media still pushing old news about unemployment in Cairns

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.

 

Jobs data makes for interesting reading

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%.

The rate at which the employment:working population measure has improved in both Cairns and Townsville highlights the ongoing improvements being seen in the North generally.

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.

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – March 2017

Regional labour data shows Cairns slightly weaker, Townsville much better

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.

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – Feb 2017

 

More jobs added in the North

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.

Conus Trend Regional Jobs QLD – Jan 2017

More great news for Cairns on jobs; Townsville also better

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.

Conus Trend QLD Regional Jobs – Dec 2016

Regional jobs; better still for Cairns while Townsville sinks further

The release today by the ABS of their original, unadjusted regional labour force data allows us to update our own Conus Trend series. What we see is (again) confirmation of the improving story in Cairns but, unfortunately, a reversal of the brighter picture for Townsville that we noted (and questioned!) last month. You can see here for our commentary last month.

Last week saw some really horrible jobs numbers for Queensland as a whole (see commentary here) but, as we said on ABC radio the day after (listen here), what could well happen was that the data for Cairns was actually better: And indeed it is.

On a Trend basis employment in Cairns rose 1,000 in October (after an unrevised 1,200 increase in Sept). This brings annual jobs growth in Cairns to 3,700 of which 1,400 have been full time positions (another 300 were added this month). The rate of Trend jobs growth in Cairns is now at +2.5%, which is at its fastest this year. With the ongoing increase in Trend employment we also see a small pick-up in Trend Participation (although last month was revised lower) to 60.1. Both increasing employment and increasing participation is the precise reverse of what we see at a state level and highlights the relative strength of the Cairns labour market. As a result we see the Trend unemployment rate in Cairns decline to 7.3% (its lowest in 5 years) while Sept was revised down to 7.7% (from 8.4%).

Unfortunately this much more positive news cannot be replicated to our south. The original ABS data for Townsville last month created some scepticism on our part, and this month’s numbers confirm we were right to be wary. Trend employment in October has fallen by 600 while the original 100 increase we noted last month has been revised to a 400 decline. Over the course of the past 12 months Townsville has lost 9,400 Trend jobs with 5,500 of those being in full time work. Not only is Trend employment declining but Trend participation is also falling (just like at a state level). As a result the Trend unemployment rate in Townsville for October now stands at 12.1% (this is actually a slight drop from the revised level of 12.2% in Sept but remains by far the highest in the state.

As the second chart below makes abundantly clear, when we “look through” the participation effect the data for Townsville is shockingly weak. Cairns, on the other hand, appears to have made a solid recovery from the lows (although still with plenty of room for further improvement).

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When we consider the data by age groups we see that there is a marked improvement in the youth sector in Cairns; and a dramatic deterioration in Townsville. The youth (15-24 yr olds) in Cairns have picked up 400 jobs on a Trend basis in October which is the fourth consecutive month of increases. The Trend youth unemployment rate has fallen to 22.4% (its lowest this year). Young people in Townsville, on the other hand, have lost 1,300 Trend jobs this month (the sixth consecutive month of declines) and seen their Trend unemployment rate increase to 24.6%, which is now the 3rd worst in the state (behind Wide Bay and Outback). Where Townsville is really struggling in the middle aged sector (25-44 yr olds) where the Trend unemployment rate is now at 11.7% (highest in the state).

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The full set of Conus Trend Regional Jobs data for QLD 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. We will be updating our Conus Trend data for NSW and Victoria in the next few days and this will also be available on our Reports page.

Conus Trend QLD Regional Jobs – Oct 2016

Regional job improvements; but Townsville is all down to falling Participation

The ABS release of original regional labour force data for September, as always, needs to be considered in light of the Conus Trend to make much sense of what can be very volatile data.

In Cairns we see the Conus Trend unemployment rate fall to 8.4% (after an unrevised 8.7% in August) with an additional 1,200 Trend jobs added; of these, 700 were full-time. Over the course of the last year Cairns has gained 2,000 Trend jobs with a rate of employment growth of 2.1% (versus -1.2% for the Rest of Queensland and +0.9% for Greater Brisbane). The Trend Participation Rate has moved higher to 60.4 which simply supports the stronger tone of the data.

In Townsville the original data gives real cause for scepticism. The original unemployment rate in September came in at 6.4% after August stood at 14.5%! This huge (and somewhat unbelievable) plunge means that the Conus Trend unemployment rate drops to 9.5% (after August was revised sharply lower to 10.1% from 12.8%). However, while this may look encouraging we also see that participation has declined sharply with the Trend rate now down to a new record low of just 56.9. Despite the supposed drop in the unemployment rate, Trend employment is barely changed (up 100) with increases in full-time jobs being offset by declines in part-time. Trend employment in Townsville remains 7,800 below its level a year ago and employment growth is now at -7.5%. To “see through” the participation effect we can consider the employment:working population measure and here we see a sharp drop to new record lows for Townsville while Cairns recovers from lows (see second chart below).

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When we look at the age breakdowns we see that youth unemployment in Cairns, whilst still high, is starting to come down. The Conus Trend youth unemployment rate is Sept has fallen to 27.1% after August was revised down to 28.9%. Trend youth employment has now increased by 400 over the past two months, although it is still down 1,800 from a year ago.

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As has been the case for some time full-time Trend employment in Greater Brisbane is fast outstripping full-time jobs in the Rest of Queensland. The 2-speed nature of thee Queensland economy remains in place.

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The full set of Conus Trend QLD Regional Jobs data is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data, but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus if you do so.

Conus Trend QLD Regional Jobs – Sept 2016

Regional jobs – improvement for Cairns but worse for Townsville

Today saw the release of the ABS regional labour force data for August. Our own Conus Trend series attempts to make some sense of the original, unadjusted data.

In Cairns SA4 the original data showed a decline in the unemployment rate to 8.1% with 100 total jobs lost. We now have the Trend Unemployment Rate sitting at 8.8% (down from 9.1% in July, which was in turn revised down). Trend employment grew by 300, although it remains down 800 over the last 12 months. The growth came in Trend Full-time jobs which were up 400 while part-time fell by 100. Over the course of the year Trend full-time positions have increased by 700 while part-time have dropped by 1,400; a situation which is the reverse of the position across much of the Rest of Queensland (excl Greater Brisbane) where full-time jobs have fallen as part-time have grown. This apparent increase in full-time positions over the year (despite the Trend unemployment rate increasing by 0.4% during that time) is a definite positive when we look at the jobs market in Cairns.

Unfortunately things are not looking as bright to our south in Townsville. Here the original unemployment rate jumped to 14.5% with 7,500 jobs lost. The Conus Trend series is not as bad as these highly volatile unadjusted numbers would suggest, but nevertheless also looks weak. The Conus Trend unemployment rate in Townsville has increased to 12.8% (from 12.7% in July, which was revised higher). A total of 200 Trend jobs were lost in the month for a total decline of 9,100 over the year. If we are looking for positives in these numbers (and there are scarce few of those!) then the fact that Trend full-time positions rose by 600 in August would have to be it (although this goes only a little way to reversing the 7,100 full-time positions lost this year).

As the second chart below makes abundantly clear the employment situation in Townsville appears to be going from bad to worse with only slightly more than half of the working aged population actually in work. 1609222160922

If we consider the ever-problematic situation of Youth unemployment in Cairns we again can see some improvement. The Conus Trend Youth unemployment rate has fallen in August to 30.2%; the fourth consecutive month of declines in the rate. There is clearly a long way to go, and as yet we are not seeing increases in Youth Trend employment levels, but we might start to hope that improvements in this area can continue. It is only this age demographic which is holding Cairns total unemployment rate so high; the middle aged Trend unemployment rate is just 7.1% and the older just 4.6%.

Townsville, on the other hand, which now sits as the worst Trend unemployment rate in the state, is suffering across all age groups. The Conus Trend unemployment rate for youth is 20.8%, middle-aged 12.2% and older 6.7%.

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The full Conus Trend Regional QLD Jobs data set is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data, but if you do so please acknowledge Conus.

Please note the original Conus Trend contained an error. We have now corrected this and the download below is the correct version. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Conus Trend QLD Regional Jobs – August 2016