There has been a lot written about the fact that the Participation Rates across Australia fell sharply as the effects of the COVID-19 lock-down took effect. These falls at national, state and regional level had the effect of suppressing the anticipated rises in the unemployment rates. Participation rates, prior to COVID-19, had been at or near historic highs due largely to significant shifts in the participation of the female workforce where we have witnessed sharp increases in recent years (this excellent graphic from Alex Joiner at IFM makes the point beautifully). We have previously written pieces discussing the various drivers of Participation Rate changes and how we can calculate, and separate, them (see here and here for details) to give us insight into how and why participation rates have changed.
With the recent release of the April Conus/CBC Staff Selection Trend Employment data for Queensland we are able to update this regional analysis.
What our analysis shows us is that, since Oct 1998, Participation Rates have fallen across QLD by 1.9 ppts (all of this and more due to the COVID-19 impact…see below) with the regions seeing rather heavier falls than Greater Brisbane. The regions have been far more heavily impacted by the demographic effects (an ageing of the population resulting in a decline in participation) than the State as a whole; demographic change has deducted 3.4 ppts from the PR in the Rest of QLD versus a 2.6 ppts fall across the State. On the other hand, the positive effects of a higher propensity in females has been seen slightly more so in the regions than the State as a whole.
Across the State there are some significant differences from region to region. Cairns has benefited to a much greater extent from the increase in female propensity to join the labour force. While the female effect has been far less in Townsville the decline in male propensity has been far greater. In the Gold Coast a ‘youth-attraction’ factor means that the combined demographic effect (which has seen QLD’s PR fall by 2.6 ppts) is very slightly positive over the years and although female propensity impact has been negligible male propensity has bucked the State trend and risen slightly.
If we compare the impacts of the COVID-19 lock-down by considering changes only since Dec 2019;