Cairns SA4 data being dragged down by areas outside the City

Each quarter the Dept of Employment produces their Small Area Labour Market (SALM) data. While we have previously concentrated our interest on the data at the Local Govt Area level (as it is the only quarterly labour force data available at this level) SALM also provides us with data at the SA2 level. This data is usually presented as a simple 4-quarters average but the original, unsmoothed data is also available hidden away within the explanatory notes; it is this original data which we have used to create SALM Trends at the LGA level (see here for details). At the SA2 level the volatility of the data would be virtually useless (even after Trend analysis) but we can aggregate the SA2 data to get something meaningful at the SA3 level, which we then Trend. This allows us to see ‘inside’ the SA4 SALM data and make some comparison with the monthly SA4 Conus/CBC Staff Selection Employment Trend data for Cairns.

Cairns SA4 is composed of 5 SA3 areas;

  • Cairns-North
  • Cairns-South
  • Innisfail-Cassowary Coast
  • Port Douglas-Daintree
  • Tablelands (East)-Kuranda

As at March 2018 and 2017 these were the Conus Trend unemployment rates for the various areas;

SA4 SA3 Mar-18
SALM Cairns 6.4 6.4
Cairns-North 3.0 3.1
Cairns-South 7.4 7.4
Innisfail-Cassowary Coast 9.0 8.2
Port Douglas-Daintree 4.8 4.8
Tablelands-Kuranda 8.2 7.6
Conus/CBC Cairns 7.4* 5.5

* Cairns/CBC Staff Selection Employment Trend as at April 2018 after April revisions. Mar ’18 originally 6.9%

As we can see the SALM Trend data is suggesting that there has been little shift over the year for Cairns SA4. Significant worsening in the Innisfail-Cassowary Coast and Tablelands-Kuranda data has been offset by a slight improvement in Cairns-North. However, the monthly Conus/CBC Staff Selection data shows a deterioration over the year. We would expect quarterly data (such as the SALM) to lag behind that provided on a monthly basis so this result is not that surprising. Indeed when we consider the chart below we can see that the quarterly SALM data suggests an unemployment rate low occurred in the Sept quarter whereas the monthly Conus/CBC Staff Selection data had the low three months earlier in June.

What this analysis tells us is that (while the SALM data may be lagged and therefore likely to have further to rise in the next quarter’s release) the worsening that we’ve been seeing in the Cairns SA4 region is coming largely from the areas away from the city centre. Innisfail-Cassowary Coast and Tablelands-Kuranda have been witnessing the worst of the increases in unemployment. This goes at least some way to explain the apparent disconnect between the clear signs of labour market weakness in the Cairns SA4 that the monthly Trend data has been suggesting for almost a year, and the lived experience of many businesses within the city environs who are not seeing that decline.

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