QLD Public Sector work force data shows the regions are lagging behind even as growth continues

The release of the September quarter Public Sector work force data (which was released late in the afternoon on the Friday before Christmas presumably to avoid much commentary!) shows (again) that the Government’s fiscal principle of keeping full-time equivalent Public Sector employment growth to that of population growth has not been met. FTE growth in the year to Sept 2018 was +3.4%, almost twice the forecast pace of population growth but slightly reduced from the 3.6% rate last quarter. Much of the growth has, once again, come from the Department of Education (+4.3% y/y) and Queensland Health (+4.6% y/y). Last quarter I discussed this issue on ABC Radio Brisbane with Steve Austin (you can hear the interview below) and commentary this quarter would be similar. The Govt’s own fiscal principle is badly set.

The total Public Sector headcount increased by 7,991 over the year (down from +8,522 last quarter) while Trend employment in Queensland grew by 37,400 over the same period (i.e. the Public Sector accounted for 21.4% of total jobs growth…this is much higher than the 13% figure in the previous quarter). Despite the timing of the release there is sure to be some commentary in the papers but it’s perhaps worth seeing this in some context. At the time the ALP government came to power in Queensland the Public Sector accounted for 10.3% of total Trend employment in the State, which had fallen to a low of 9.9% after the Newman Government cuts. It stood at 10.7% when Newman took over. These latest figures see that percentage at 10.8% by Sept 2018. In other words, since the election of the Palaszczuk Government the Public Sector has added 13,100 more to Public Sector headcount than if the percentage of the total number employed had stayed at the same level it was when they came to power in Feb 2015 (10.3%). Over that period the total number employed has risen by 166,200; the “excess” Public Sector increase accounts for 7.9% of that. In that time FTEs in the Department of Education are up about 7,900 while Queensland Health has added 14,000.

If we were to assume that all these 13,100 people, had they not been employed in the Public Sector, would currently be unemployed (an extreme assumption!) then the Trend unemployment rate in Sept 2018 would have stood at 6.7% instead of the actual rate of 6.2%.

Public Sector employment growth is certainly a contributing factor in total employment growth, but to suggest that it is somehow the main driver simply doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

The data for Sept also allows us to take a look at the distribution of Public Sector FTEs throughout the State. In the year to Sept FTE growth in Greater Brisbane was 3.9%, in the Rest of Queensland it was just 2.9%. However since the ALP government came to power FTE growth in Greater Brisbane (+12.1%) has trailed that in the Rest of QLD (+12.9%)

Since March 2015 Cairns has grown at close to the regional average up 12.9% while Townsville has seen just 8.4% growth in that time.

While the Government have talked about supporting jobs in regional Queensland, and certainly some programs appear to have done that, this data suggests that when it came to their own direct hiring they have actually stimulated very little extra direct employment in the regions. If FTE growth in the regions had been at the same pace as in Greater Brisbane there would have been only 778 fewer FTEs across the regions than we currently have. However, what is clear is that much of the regional growth has been restricted to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts where growth rates have been well in excess of average. Indeed if we exclude the SEQ regions of the Sunshine and Gold Coasts then Public Sector FTE growth in regional Queensland shrinks to just 9.0% since Mar 2015, well below the pace in the SE corner (14.2%).

Growth at 12.5% in the regions (excl Gold and Sunshine Coast) since March 2015 would have seen an extra 2,377 FTEs in the regions than we currently have.

Sept-18 Sept-17 % Mar-15 %
 FTE  FTE  y/y  FTE  since Mar 15
Brisbane – East 5,109 4,803 6.4 4,537 12.6
Brisbane – North 9,739 9,444 3.1 8,254 18.0
Brisbane – South 18,744 18,746 0.0 17,859 5.0
Brisbane – West 3,753 3,523 6.5 3,263 15.0
Brisbane Inner City 44,876 43,213 3.8 40,536 10.7
Ipswich  15,037 13,933 7.9 12,740 18.0
Logan – Beaudesert  10,581 10,139 4.4 9,352 13.1
Moreton Bay – North    9,111 8,919 2.2 8,017 13.7
Moreton Bay – South    3,562 3,291 8.2 2,974 19.8
Greater Brisbane 120,511 116,011 3.9 107,533 12.1
Cairns 13,492 13,084 3.1 11,946 12.9
Fitzroy 9,855 9,667 1.9 9,146 7.8
Darling Downs – Maranoa 5,042 4,937 2.1 4,782 5.4
Gold Coast 19,451 18,661 4.2 16,014 21.5
Mackay 6,541 6,441 1.6 5,893 11.0
Queensland – Outback 6,171 6,022 2.5 5,950 3.7
Sunshine Coast 12,990 12,512 3.8 10,376 25.2
Toowoomba 7,671 7,446 3.0 6,781 13.1
Townsville 12,899 12,573 2.6 11,903 8.4
Wide Bay 11,841 11,627 1.8 11,055 7.1
ROQ   105,952 102,971 2.9 93,847 12.9
QLD   226,463 218,982 3.4 201,379 12.5

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