Cairns Unemployment Rate falls further

Today’s release of the (unadjusted) ABS labour force data for regions allows us to update our own Conus Trend series for the Queensland regions.

In Cairns we saw the Conus Trend unemployment rate fall to 7.2% (7.5% in Nov); its lowest level since Aug 2011. Trend employment in Dec increased by 400 (after a 300 increase in Nov), which takes the total increase in Trend employment for the year to 2,600 (or 217 per month, which suggests that the current rate of increase is running well above the annual average). This is the third consecutive month of increases in Trend employment following some solid gains in the first 5 months of the year. the Trend Participation Rate increased slightly to 60.1 from 60.0, while the Trend Employment:Working Population measure also ticked higher (to 55.6 from 55.3); although this remains historically low (see the second chart below).

In Townsville there was also some improvement in jobs numbers, although the overall picture remains weak. Trend employment increased by 200 (after a 100 increase in Nov) but this still means that in Trend terms 8,300 jobs have been lost in Townsville over the past year. The Conus Trend unemployment rate edged higher to 7.3% (from 7.1%) while both the Trend PR (up to 61.4) and the Employment:Working Population measure (up to 57.1) showed improvements. Of course, this data relates to a period before the recent job losses at Queensland Nickel. Although at this stage there is no indication that there will be any further large-scale jobs losses at the plant, we should note that (all other things being equal) if 700 jobs were to be lost from QNI, and all these workers registered as unemployed, then the Trend unemployment rate would be somewhere above 7.5% rather than 7.3%. i.e. loss of ALL of the QNI jobs could add 0.2% to the Townsville Trend unemployment rate.

Among all the Queensland regions, in Conus Trend terms, Cairns now sits in 5th position behind Outback Queensland (12.6%), Wide Bay (8.4%), Mackay and Townsville (7.3%).

UPDATE: Mark Beath over at Loose Change has an interesting post on the divergence in employment between the SE corner at the rest of Queensland.



Looking at the Cairns data in more detail we see that Trend Youth unemployment has moved higher (to 20.2%) after what had seemed to be a solid improvement in previous months. However, although the unemployment rate does not look good we should note that Trend employment in the youth sector has increased by 300 (after +400 in Nov) and has now gone up in every of the past 11 months; we haven’t seen that happen since March 2009!

The older (45+) cohort of workers has seen healthy growth with Trend employment up 1,700 (+1,600 in Nov) and the Trend unemployment rate falling to 5.6% (from 6.2%).

What these two series tell us is that the “middle” section of workers (i.e. those between 25 and 45) must have lost approximately 1,600 Trend jobs in the month. Over the past 12 months the older cohort have gained 1,800 Trend jobs, the youth sector 1,700 Trend jobs and the Cairns market as a whole 2,600 Trend jobs; which means the 25-45 year age group must have lost some 900 over the year.



1601215When we consider the gender split in Cairns we see the Male Conus Trend unemployment rate at 6.4% (down from 7.0%) while the Female Conus Trend unemployment rate fell slightly to 7.7% (from 7.8%).

1601216As always, the full spreadsheet of all the Conus Trend data for the Queensland Regions is available for download below. Feel free to use this data, but when doing so please acknowledge Conus where appropriate. The full data set for the Cairns gender series is available on request.
QLD Regions Jobs data – Conus Trend Dec 2015




  1. Gene Tunny says:

    January 21st, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Nice analysis Pete!

  2. Pete Faulkner says:

    January 21st, 2016 at 6:24 am

    Thanks Gene.

  3. Glen says:

    January 22nd, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Pete it would be interesting to get some in depth numbers on the make up of the Cairns figures over recent times , Full time/ Part time etc, the types of jobs being created and at what level. To date none of our businesses we deal with in Cairns over different industries have seen any improvement which would indicate a resurgence in Cairns that many refer to. In fact over the last 3 months I personally know of 3 people who have lost employment in Cairns and left town, all would have been on approx $150k P.A. One had their position relocated to Townsville and moved there, one to Brisbane and one took a package and hooked up the van and hit the road. Job numbers, Tourist numbers, house starts are all up but at the moment there seems to be a massive disconnect between the numbers and the dollars.

  4. Pete Faulkner says:

    January 22nd, 2016 at 12:17 am

    Glen, Thanks for the comment. Certainly the anecdotal evidence doesn’t always appear to tie up with the data-based evidence. Although the ABS do provide the original regional employment data split into full and part-time, I do not have the resources to conduct analysis further than we already do. If I had the time then a Trend analysis of part-time versus full-time positions in Cairns would be an interesting avenue of investigation.
    You may not be aware that I am running for Mayor in the Cassowary Coast, so in the run-up to the March 19th election I will be severely constrained in how much time I have for additional economic analysis.
    Cheers, Pete

  5. Glen says:

    January 22nd, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Yes Pete, I was aware and I wish you well at the polls. “Control the swing and the rest of the gear in the playground looks after itself” were the first words I heard when I first became involved in politics 30 years ago, still relevant today.
    All the best

  6. Pete Faulkner says:

    January 22nd, 2016 at 1:04 am

    Thanks for that Glen.

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