Another strong labour force result…unless you’re in Queensland

The ABS Labour Force survey data for Nov released this morning provides another strong result. Employment increased 37,000 (seasonally adjusted) although the October increase was revised a touch lower. The market had been forecasting growth about 20,000. However, on the back of a tick-up in the Participation Rate, the headline unemployment rate lifted to 5.1% (from 5.0%). Full-time positions fell 6,400 in the month.

If we consider the less volatile Trend series we see employment up 28,800, Participation at a record high of  65.7, and the unemployment rate at 5.1% (down from 5.3% in Oct). Trend employment growth now sits at 2.4%; down from 3.3% a year earlier.

Unfortunately things are much less rosy in the Sunshine State. Queensland saw employment increase by 21,800 (although full-time positions were down 10,900) but the headline unemployment rate increase to 6.4% as participation jumped sharply. As the chart above makes clear the seasonally adjusted data at the State level is much more volatile than the national data (as we would expect with the smaller sample size) so we much prefer the Trend data at the State level. 

Here we see employment up 3,000 and the unemployment rate unchanged (at least when we look to one decimal place!) at 6.3%. The divergence between the national and Queensland picture is becoming marked. While the national Trend unemployment rate sits at its lowest level since July 2011, in Queensland it is at highest level since May 2015. Nevertheless, Trend employment growth has picked up in the past few months but the annual rate remains less than half that nationally at just 1.1%.

One of our preferred labour force measures, which “sees through” issues around participation and the split between full-time and part-time employment is the average hours worked per capita of working age population. Here we see the weakness in Queensland highlighted just as starkly. Average hours worked per working age person in Queensland has fallen to 85.98 hrs/month; very close to its all time low point of 85.79 in Dec 2016. At the national level the measure continues to edge higher (albeit very slowly) and now sits at 86.50, its highest level since May 2013.

Taken as a whole this data suggests continued strength in the Australian labour market and a worrying, persistent under-performance in Queensland.

The regional labour force data and the quarterly industry employment data will be released by the ABS tomorrow. We will be updating our Conus/CBC Staff Selection Regional Employment Trend and Conus Industry Employment Trend data sets at that time.

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