Cairns Trend employment up; unemployment rate down

The ABS original regional labour force data yesterday has allowed us to update the Conus/CBC Staff Selection Trend Regional Employment Trend series for Queensland for May. What we see is strong growth across the State (as expected after last week’s release of the State data showed the unemployment rate falling to 5.4%…see here for details) with the Trend unemployment rate in Greater Brisbane falling to 6.2% (5.6% s.a.) and in the Rest of QLD to 5.6% (5.2% s.a.).

In our own region May again sees some strength in Cairns. Employment lifted 1,800 (with full-time up 1,600) and participation also improved (+0.6 ppts). The Trend unemployment rate is now well below where it sat in May last year at 4.8%. Annual Trend employment growth has finally turned marginally positive (+0.3%) which is still weak when compared to an estimated Trend rate of +7.5% for QLD, +8.5% in Greater Brisbane and +6.6% for the Rest of Queensland.

Although employment has risen by only 400 over the year the unemployment rate remains low due to a decline in participation. There have been job losses in the youth sector (-1,300) with only modest gains in the middle-aged (+600) and older cohorts (+1,200). In the youth sector the unemployment rate has fallen sharply despite these employment losses; this points to a severe reduction in the participation rate in this cohort as young people remove themselves from the labour force; likely due to the effects on employment in the tourism-facing sectors such as Accommodation & Food Services and Retail which would have been traditionally youth dominated. Note that full-time jobs are now up 3,400 for the year being offset by a similar decline (-2,900) in part-time positions.

Townsville had another almost universally good month. Trend employment was up this month (+800) and is now up 7,400 from a year earlier. The Trend unemployment rate sits below the state average at 5.1% with annual Trend employment growth now strongly positive  at +6.8% in Townsville.

As the chart below shows, Townsville is suffering much less than some other regions (such as Cairns) which are more reliant on industry sectors such as tourism and has seen employment recover well beyond pre-COVID levels already.

The participation rate has been a major contributor to movements in the unemployment rate in Townsville and with participation now up strongly from a year earlier (+3.5 ppts) we are seeing things return to something that we might describe as more ‘normal’ in Townsville. The median time spent searching for a job has also fallen in Townsville over the year which again points to underlying strength.

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

Conus/CBC Staff Selection Regional Employment Trend & s.a. QLD – May 2021

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