This morning’s ABS Sept labour market data for the Queensland regions is, as always very volatile, although this month seems even more so than usual. The headline, unadjusted data shows Cairns unemployment rate jumping to 9.2% with 3,600 jobs lost in the month. To our south the original data shows Townsville’s unemployment rate almost halved to 5.9% with 5,700 jobs added!. These are clearly so volatile as to be senseless when considered on their own. Therefore we need to focus on the Conus Trend data.
Cairns Trend employment fell in Sept by 500 while the Aug decline was revised worse to 600 (from -200). The Trend unemployment rate now stands at 8.4% and although this is a slight decline from Aug (8.5%) we should be mindful that the Aug figure was revised up from 8.0%. The only reason for the fall in the Trend unemployment rate was another drop in Trend Participation (now down to 59.6 which is very close to a record low for the region). If we strip out the “Participation effect” and look at the Trend Employment/Working Population measure (see the second chart below) we see that this has once again fallen sharply to 54.6, which is a record low point. Cairns now sits as the third worse region is Queensland in terms of a Trend Unemployment rate falling behind only Fitzroy (9.6%) and Wide Bay (9.5%). Despite an increase in Trend Employment of 1,400 in Cairns since the start of the year, the labour market in the region is clearly still in a very weak position.
To our south in Townsville, despite the much stronger unadjusted data, the Conus Trends show things still looking weak. The Townsville Trend Employment data shows a decline of 500, although the Aug drop of 1,600 was revised to just 1,000. With the Trend Participation Rate falling again to 60.6 (a new record low for Townsville) the Trend Unemployment Rate managed to stay stable at 7.9% (after Aug was revised sharply down from 9.0%). The Trend Employment/Working Population measure shows a decline to 56.0, from 56.4 in Aug (another record low). Since the start of the year Trend Employment in Townsville has fallen by 9,300! When taking both Cairns and Townsville together it is clear that employment in the North of the state is in a very poor position.
The gender split in the Cairns data has some highly suspect elements within. Not least of which is the unadjusted data which shows female unemployment jumped from 1,700 in Aug to 6,500 in Sept! Focus on the Conus Trend series (which, due to the small data set are still highly volatile and should therefore be treated with extreme caution) is more important than ever.
The Conus Trend series shows the male unemployment rate at 9.5% (down from 9.8% in Aug) while the female Trend remains stable at 7.3%. The decline in jobs in total appears to be solely related to female employment with males seeing a very small increase (+200) over the month.
Youth unemployment remains a serious concern in Cairns (as it is in many regional areas). The headline, unadjusted data shows the unemployment rate for the 15-24 year old segment at its highest in a year (27.9%). The Conus Trend sees an increase in the Youth unemployment rate to 23.0% (its highest in 10 months) and the 12 month moving average at 21.9& (actually a slight decline from 22.0%). The charts below demonstrate the weakness in the youth labour market and the fact that employment in the sector has virtually flat-lined for the past 12 months.
The full Conus Trend data set for all Queensland regions is available for free download below. Please feel free to use and quote from this data, but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus when you do so. The full Cairns Male/Female Trend data is available on request.