Cairns employment deep dive…August data

A lot has changed in Australia’s labour market since the COVID pandemic struck. Lockdowns, lock-outs, payroll support, increased JobSeeker payments and workers working zero hours have all had profound impacts, to the point where the headline unemployment rate (now the seasonally adjusted series since the ABS had to suspend the Trend series due to the extreme COVID-induced fluctuations) is not any longer seen as providing us with much useful information about the underlying strength of the labour market (see recent commentary on the August data for more).

In our own region employment has fallen somewhat since Jan 2020 (down 4,090), but the unemployment rate has also dropped sharply as people remove themselves from the labour market in the face of the changing market conditions. We decided to take a deeper dive into the Cairns labour market to try and get a better handle on what has happened since January 2020.

This was the labour market situation (as described by the Conus/CBC Staff Selection Trend series) in Cairns in January 2020;

Working age pop Labour Force PR FT
emp
PT emp Unemp UR Not in labour force
204,300 144,700 70.7 96,300 40,100 8,300 5.8 59,600
Male
99,900 72,400 72.5 57,800 11,300 3,300 4.6 27,500
Female
104,400 72,300 69.3 38,600 28,800 5,000 6.9 32,100

 

By August 2021 things had changed dramatically;

Working age pop Labour Force PR FT
emp
PT emp Unemp UR Not in labour force
205,900 138,800 67.0 92,600 39,800 6,400 4.6 67,200
Male
100,900 69,700 69.0 54,600 10,900 4,200 6.1 31,300
Female
105,000 69,100 65.8 38,000 28,900 2,200 3.2 35,900

 

changes;

Working age pop Labour Force PR
ppts
FT
emp
PT emp Unemp UR
ppts
Not in labour force
+1,600 -5,900 -3.7 -3,700 -300 -1,900 -1.2 +7,600
Male
+1,000 -2,700 -3.5 -3,200 -400 +900 +1.5 +3,800
Female
+600 -3,200 -3.5 -600 +100 -2,800 -3.7 +3,800

 

While the Cairns headline unemployment rate has fallen to 4.6%, this has come about by way of a rise in the male unemployment rate (+1.5 ppts to 6.1%) while the female rate has fallen steeply (-3.7 ppts to 3.2%). This decline has come about not by a rise in female employment (in fact female employment is down 500) but instead from a large fall in the number of females defined as unemployed (down 2,800) as females removed themselves from the Labour Force (down 3,800). As a result the female Participation Rate has dropped by 3.5 ppts to 65.8.

The male Labour Force has also declined over the period (although by less) and is down 2,700. While the number unemployed is up (+900) employment is down 3,600, with the vast bulk of those job losses coming in full-time positions (down 3,200).

The working age population in Cairns has increased by 1,600 over this period (males +1,000 and females +600) but the number not in the labour force has jumped by 7,600 (males and females both +3,800). This means that by August 2021 34.2% of females of working age were not in the labour force (up from 30.7% in Jan 2020). The percentage of males not in the labour force has also increased (to 31.0% from 27.6%) but at a slower pace than females.

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