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.