Monday, March 25, 2013

Meanwhile, down the road .....

The regional employment data has always been at times questionable, but it's all we have! While Cairns and Far North has been navel gazing in recent years, and bemoaning high unemployment, trends down the road in Townsville are if anything more interesting.

While the perception and in Cairns has been that Townsville is a stable diversified economy that has performed more strongly and should be emulated, somehow employment in North - NW has gone significantly backwards in recent years. It is the worst performing region in Queensland in terms of numbers employed going by the ABS estimates since the end of 2010. This is a comparison of employment between Far North and North-NW:
The trend line here is simply a 12 month moving average and shows the contraction in North-NW employment over recent years with employment numbers in the two regions again converging. While both regions cover a large area they are dominated by their respective capitals. 2011 Census data shows a labour force of approximately 85k in Townsville SUA and 68k in Cairns SUA, although the areas surrounding Cairns City are more densely populated than Townsville.

Most of that roller-coaster in North-NW has been in female employment and this is the monthly data for male and female employment since 2007:

So the increase in employment in the North-NW region between the GFC hit and the peak in 2010 was mostly driven by female employment. That female employment reached a level almost matching males is rather unusual, particularly given the regional demographics, with the split in Queensland generally somewhere around 45-55.

This is a direct comparison of female employment between Far North and North-NW:
The trend is again a simple 12 month moving average with the two regions again converging as Far North makes up ground. There are some similar trends here with the decline from 2010 to 2012 now turning around in both regions.
The Townsville Bulletin reported on female employment back in July 2011: Record high for female unemployment rate. There have also been some substantial swings in participation rates over this period with the female rate being as high as 75% and as low as 56%.
Without any local knowledge of what has been going on in Townsville this doesn't really make sense to me, and perhaps raises further questions on the quality of the regional data. Are there really something close to 10,000 less women employed in North-NW than there were around the end of 2010?


  1. Yes, I agree there are huge questions re. quality of regional data.

  2. I think my big problem here is that this isn't just monthly noise in the regional data.