What’s behind Queensland’s underperformance on Payrolls but overperformance on Labour Force?

The ABS monthly Labour Force Survey data for April showed employment in Queensland was up 7.8% from a year ago; far better than the Australian performance of +5.1%. Indeed employment growth in Queensland has been outpacing the national average every month since July last year.

Yet the weekly Payrolls data is showing a rather different picture. Since early December the Australian data has been beating Queensland and now (up to 8th May 2021) the Payrolls index sits 0.8 ppts above Queensland. Although the Payrolls data is not seasonally adjusted (unlike the Labour Force Survey) this cannot explain the relative difference given that seasonal factors are likely to be very similar at the national and state levels.

We can get some additional insight into the Payrolls data by comparing across different sizes of companies. When we do so we see that Queensland is actually outperforming in smaller companies up to 20 employees (99.7 versus 98.7) and in medium businesses with between 20 and 200 employees (99.9 versus 98.9). However, when it comes to companies in excess of 200 employees we see Queensland doing much worse (97.8 versus 100.8).

Beware reading too much into the apparent downward move in smaller companies data. This is largely due to late reporting of payrolls and is certain to be largely revised away in coming weeks.

We can dig further by considering the Payrolls data by industry sector. By doing so, and adjusting for the relative size of industry sector employment at national and state levels, we see that the major driver of underperformance in Queensland has been in the Healthcare sector where Australia’s index¬† is up 3.9 ppts while Queensland is down 3.0 ppts . Given that this sector accounts for about 14% of total employment it is this underperformance driving the variance and accounts for 0.98 ppts of the index gap.¬†

Minor underperformance for Queensland in Mining (-0.12 ppts) is offset by outperformance in Retail (+0.12 ppts) with Agriculture (+0.1 ppts) the only other sector where the difference accounts for at least 0.1 ppts.

This analysis doesn’t help us explain why the Payrolls data shows such a difference from the Labour Force Survey, but it does at least show us that Healthcare (where a lot of employment would sit within the >200 employees cohort) in Queensland is the primary reason for the state’s underperformance and why the larger company data is so much weaker in the Sunshine State.

What then confuses the picture even more is that the ABS Industry Employment data to Feb 2021 shows Australian employment in the Healthcare sector was up just 0.8% since Feb 2020…… while in Queensland the increase is a massive 7.1%!


  1. Gene Tunny says:

    May 26th, 2021 at 7:49 pm

    Hi Pete, I’d have a look at the ABS’s published estimates of sampling errors for state employment estimates. That may explain some of the discrepancy. The other possibility is differences in growth in numbers of self-employed workers, although I suspect the discrepancy is largely due to sampling error.

  2. Pete Faulkner says:

    May 26th, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks Gene. Agree that sampling error likely a significant contributor…although I would hope it’s not all of the reason! Sole operators (and therefore not captured in the STP data) is certainly another possibility but I’m not sure how significant an effect that would be in the Healthcare & Social Assistance sector. Thanks mate.

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