The Gold Coast and Toowoomba lead the employment recovery in QLD. Cairns unemployment rate falls to 5.7%

The release of original regional employment data for December by the ABS allows us to update the Conus/CBC Staff Selection Trend series. While employment across Queensland has lifted 27,250 during 2020 this latest analysis shows that the bulk of those gains have come from regional Queensland (Rest of QLD added 24,000) with Greater Brisbane seeing much more modest growth, up just a little over 3,000). Regions that have done particularly well during the year were Toowoomba, which added 16,900, and the Gold Coast, where employment lifted 13,100.

However, in both the capital and the regions all the growth came in part-time positions with full-time employment down more than 18,000.

The unemployment rate across QLD remains stubbornly high at 7.5% in part due to a strong bounce in participation rates (see here for detail) but again the regions are doing better than Greater Brisbane. The unemployment rate in the Rest of QLD now stands at 7.1% while in Greater Brisbane it is 7.9%.

Although the State has more than made back all of the employment lost since March the number listed as unemployed has increased by about 56,000. We have seen an increase in participation (+1.2 ppts) in the Sunshine State since March at a much better pace than across the nation (where PR is up just 0.3 ppts).

See Dr Marcus Smith’s post (here) for more breakdown of the regional data.

The North

In Cairns there has also been improvement. Despite only a small lift in employment in December and a slight lift in participation we see the unemployment rate dip slightly in Cairns to 5.7%. Trend employment edged higher this month with all gains in the full-time sector.

Annual Trend employment growth remains negative (-5.8%) which is weak when compared to +1.1% for QLD, +0.3% in Greater Brisbane and +1.9% for the Rest of Queensland.

Over the course of the last 12 months, although employment has fallen by 7,900, the unemployment rate remains unchanged due to a sharp decline in participation. The fact that the vast bulk of job losses have come in the middle-aged cohort (-10,900) and yet this cohort’s unemployment rate has also declined (-0.7%) points to a very sharp decline in participation being focused in this sector. The converse appears true in the older cohort where, despite employment increasing over the year (+3,700) the unemployment rate is up 1.4 ppts. Note also that full-time jobs have fallen sharply during the year with only a relatively modest off-set from rising part-time employment (+4,800)

Townsville is in the very unusual position of having most labour market indicators better than they were a year ago. Trend employment has risen by another 1,600 this month and is up 1,700 from a year earlier. Indeed in Townsville Trend employment is now above where it was in March.

Annual Trend employment growth is now positive (+1.5%) in Townsville which compares well with rates across the State.

The labour market in Townsville had been recovering from a very low level prior to March, which helps explain why so many of the annual changes look so strong. Despite the data appearing rather flattered by the low base from which it has been coming, Townsville has suffered much less than some other regions which are more reliant on industry sectors such as Tourism.

As we noted a few months ago, the participation rate in Townsville was low and we suggested that an increase in PR, even when matched with employment increases, would likely see the unemployment rate lift from its comparatively low levels. That is precisely what we see again this month with a lift in PR meaning that, even with good employment growth, the unemployment rate has edged higher to 7.5% (although this is still well down from a year ago). Also note that both full and part-time employment in Townsville are up over the year; very unlike the situation in Cairns.

The full Conus/CBC Staff Selection Trend & s.a. data is available for download below. Please feel free to use this data but kindly acknowledge Conus/CBC Staff Selection when you do so.

Conus/CBC Staff Selection Regional Jobseeker Trend & s.a. QLD – Dec 2020


  1. Ricky Partington says:

    February 25th, 2021 at 2:45 am

    Fantastic news for Townsville <3 me and my family visited from Geelong recently and we are making the move their soon!

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