The release by the ABS of the unadjusted regional labour force data today has, once again, highlighted the extreme volatility of this series. The original data suggests that 3,400 fewer people were in work in Cairns in Dec than in Nov (despite a supposed increase of 500 jobs the previous month). As our previous post and article from The Cairns Post demonstrates, this level of volatility makes it extremely hard to get a true handle on what is actually happening in the labour market. Nevertheless, we believe that the Conus Trend series gives us the best possible insight.
The Conus Trend employment series shows that, once again, jobs were lost in Cairns during the month; this time down by 900 after the previous 2 month’s declines were revised to 2,700 from 2,000. Over the course of the year the Trend data shows a total of 4,000 fewer in employment. The unadjusted data shows the unemployment rate back up to 8.8%; the Conus Trend unemployment rate now sits at 7.6% (down from 7.8% in Nov although this was itself revised up from 7.2%). Cairns now sits as the 4th equal highest Trend unemployment rate in the state. Part of the reason that the unemployment rate has actually not risen significantly higher over the year has been the dramatic fall in the Participation Rate that we’ve witnessed; Trend PR has fallen to 59.5 from 62.1 over the course of the last 12 months. If we consider the Trend Employment to Working Population measure we can “see through” this participation effect. The graph below shows this ratio and is a clear demonstration of how weak the labour market in Cairns has become.
This graph also makes clear the limited recovery we have seen in Townsville, despite headline unemployment rate data appearing still very weak . The Conus Trend employment series for Townsville shows 300 jobs were lost in Dec but there are still 6,800 more people employed than a year ago. Despite this solid jobs growth record the Trend unemployment rate remains high at 8.7% (having fallen from a 9.3% in Nov, which in turn was revised down from 9.7%). Townsville currently has the 2nd highest Trend unemployment rate in the state behind Wide Bay at 10.4%. The reason for this apparent paradox is the fact that the Trend Participation Rate in Townsville has risen over the past year from 63.7 to 68.0. The graph above demonstrates that Townsville now sits on par with the state as a whole and well above most regional areas.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the overall weakness in today’s Cairns data, the Youth Unemployment data is also turning down. This is an even more volatile series of data (given its much smaller data set) so as always we must take extreme caution in considering the numbers. Nevertheless, the Conus Trend series shows the Youth Unemployment Rate at 21.1% in Dec (down from 22.6% in Nov, although this itself was revised sharply higher from 21.0%). The 12 month moving average (a measure preferred by the Brotherhood of St Laurence) also increased slightly to 21.6% (from 21.3%).
As always, the full spreadsheet with all Conus Trend data for the Queensland regions is available for download. Please feel free to use this data, but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus if you do so. QLD Regions Jobs data – Conus Trend Dec 2014