Both Cairns and Townsville see labour markets deteriorating in May

Today saw the release of the ABS regional labour market data from which we have created our Conus Trend series data. Despite anecdotal evidence of improvements in the Cairns region (particularly in the tourism sector), the Trend jobs data deteriorated further in May; as it did in Townsville. The two northern regional areas now sit in second and third places with regard to unemployment rates in Queensland.

Cairns saw the ABS original unemployment rate jump to 11%. The Conus Trend series showed Trend unemployment at 10.2% (while April was revised up from 9.3% to 9.8%). Trend employment fell again in May (down 800) which brings the total for the past 12 months to a fall of 2,700. A fall in Trend Participation Rate over the year from 60.9 to 59.7 has helped to mitigate some of the rise in Trend Unemployment Rate but the second chart below makes clear the impact the labour market weakness is having when we consider the Employment:Working Population measure.

In Townsville the bad news continues. The original ABS data showed an unemployment rate at 13.3% but the Conus Trend Unemployment Rate came in at 11.1% (after April was revised up from 10.5% to 10.7%); only the Outback with a Trend rate of 11.2% is worse. Trend employment fell again (down 1,800) although the large decline in April was revised slightly better (from -2,100 to -1,600). Nevertheless Trend employment in Townsville has fallen by 14,200 over the past year. As is the case with Cairns, a rapidly declining Trend Participation Rate has helped to ease some of the impact on the unemployment rate but the Employment:Working Population measure shows a massive collapse.




We have taken a closer look into the demographic make-up of these monthly regional labour market data and compared Cairns with Townsville. The result is interesting.

In Cairns, we we know, the real issue revolves around the young (15-24 yo) sector. Here we see the Conus Trend Unemployment Rate at 31.3% (down slightly from 32.8% last month) which is the fourth consecutive month of rates above 30%. Trend Youth employment has fallen by 2,000 in the past 12 months. When we consider the older cohort (45+ yo) then we see a different picture with a Trend Unemployment Rate at 4.3% (up slightly from 4.1% last month) even though this cohort has lost 1,400 in the past year. In the “middle aged” (25-44 yo) sector we see a Trend Unemployment Rate of 8.7% (up from 8.2% previously) but an addition of 710 Trend jobs in the past 12 months.

It is the youth sector in Cairns that is the greatest cause for concern and responsible for the bulk of Trend job losses.


In Townsville, by comparison, Youth Trend Unemployment sits at “just” 15.6% and the sector has added 3,090 Trend jobs over the year. The older cohort has a Trend Unemployment Rate of 7.4% and has lost 3,230 Trend jobs over the year. While the middle aged Trend Unemployment Rate is 11.1% and this cohort have lost 13,940 Trend jobs.

The problem for the Townsville region rests squarely with this middle aged cohort where the vast bulk of the jobs have been lost.


The full QLD Regions labour force Conus Trend data set is available for download below or on our Reports page. Please feel free to use this data but we would appreciate you acknowledging Conus if you do so.

Conus Trend Qld Regional Jobs – May 2016



  1. NSSfT says:

    June 23rd, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Truly desperate figures and it gives cause for the concern; what can turn this about? As automation enters more general adoption, the cities continue to boom, mining continues to unwind and effectively ‘jobless’ industries such as live cattle exports are built in Townsville where will the jobs come from? There is no point constructing things if there are no people to use the facilities. Develop the north? Maybe its time to gently close it down and let the population decline to the proper levels that the economies can support, e.g. publicly funded positions in health, education, defence and general administration. Some agriculture & tourism (low paying positions), some mining and thats about it.

  2. Pete Faulkner says:

    June 23rd, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    You’re quite right that the question now is “what can be done?”. I’m rather more optimistic and believe that the region does have a future. Past empty rhetoric about “developing the north” needs to be met with genuine action to take advantage of what the region can offer in terms of lifestyle, natural resources and proximity to our major trade partners. There’s no silver bullet but I’m not ready to pack up and move south just yet! Many thanks for the comment.

  3. laydee_k says:

    July 7th, 2016 at 12:21 am

    If North Queensland is to be the gateway to asia perhaps the local university should be teaching mandarin?

  4. Pete Faulkner says:

    July 7th, 2016 at 12:26 am

    Thanks for the comment. That’s a good point. Do you know when they ceased to do so? I think that up until a few years ago JCU did offer a course in Chinese.

Leave a Response

  • © Conus Business Consultancy Services 2022

    Website created by RJ New Designs