Small Area Labour Market data for the Far North

Every quarter the Department of Employment produce their Small Area Labour Market (SALM) statistics. Following the changes to the ABS geographical standards this year the Dept have been struggling to put together the data for the March and June quarters of 2014. It’s been a long time waiting but today we finally see the release for both quarters. This is the only reliable source of labour force data for areas smaller than the SA4 regions (such as “Cairns”, which covers the Local Government Areas of Cairns City Council, Cassowary Coast Regional Council, Douglas Shire, Tablelands Regional Council and Mareeba Shire)

The SALM estimates are created using data from Centrelink data of people in receipt of Newstart and Youth Allowance by postcode, the ABS regional labour market data at SA4 level and the Census labour force data at SA2 level. These data sets are used to create the SALM estimations using a methodology called Structure Preserving Estimation (SPREE). Due to the highly volatile nature of this data the Dept present the raw, unadjusted data but recommend that focus is on the smoothed 4 quarters moving average. That is what we have done below.

Prior to the ABS geographical standard changes we had been reporting Cassowary Coast Regional Council labour force data by aggregating the old Cardwell and Johnstone Shire data. That is no longer necessary with the new data from the Dept providing data at LGA and SA2 level. The Dept have produced data today which only goes back as far as the final quarter of 2012 so the graph below shows the unemployment rates for Cairns and Townsville LGAs only since then. However, as we had been estimating the unemployment rate for CCRC since March 2008 using aggregated Cardwell and Johnstone Shire data, the CCRC series runs from the first quarter 2008.


The graph makes clear that the improvement in the unemployment rate seen in the Cairns SA4 region over the past year or so has come largely from a fall in the Cairns LGA rate. Unemployment in Cairns Regional Council has fallen to 7.4% in the June 2014 quarter having been as high as 8.0% in Dec 2012. The rates in the other “Cairns” SA4 areas have been fairly stable: CCRC sits at 7.4%, Tablelands at 9.0%, Douglas at 7.2% and Mareeba at 9.4%.

What is also clear is the sharp rise in unemployment in Townsville. The unemployment rate there sits at 6.4% up from 4.1% just 15 months ago; Hinchinbrook Shire (which falls within the Townsville SA4 region) has seen unemployment increase from 5.3% to 8.0% in the same period

Just as a point of reference the Conus Trend unemployment rates for the SA4 regions in June were 7.5% in Cairns and 8.7% in Townsville.

Within the Cassowary Coast the SA2 data shows the unemployment rate in Innisfail at 11.0%, Johnstone at 6.1% and Tully (which includes Mission Beach and Cardwell) at 5.5%. We shall leave it to others to crunch the numbers for the various SA2 areas in Cairns.

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