The Courier Mail and the Small Area Labour Market numbers

Mark Beath over at Loose Change has written an excellent piece on a Courier Mail story regarding unemployment (and tourism jobs) in Cairns. The paper runs with the idea that unemployment in Cairns has fallen by 16% (from Dec ’12 to Dec ’13) based on an analysis of the Small Area Labour Market data provided by the Dept of Employment. 
As Mark points out, whilst this contention is accurate (as far as the SALM data goes) it ignores the fact that the participation rate has fallen sharply in that period (from 70 to 61.9 in the Conus Trend series) and therefore a decline in the number unemployed does not, per se, translate into an increase in employment. Using the SALM data (which uses an averaged 4 quarters figure) and extrapolating the number employed (labour force minus unemployed) we see an increase in employment in Cairns from Dec ’12 to Dec ’13 of just 723 (or 0.9%).
This SALM data, which is derived from ABS, Census (2006) and Centrelink figures, is compiled quarterly and needs to be viewed with caution; it would be unwise to draw any rash conclusions from it. 
The next release will be for the March 2014 quarter and will be changing to account for the shift in the geographical systems used by the ABS. We will be supplied with data for Statistical Area Level 4 (this is the “Cairns” of the ABS regional jobs data which superceded the old “Far North QLD” region) and Local Government Areas. Inevitably all previous data will be revised into these new geographical boundaries.

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