Thursday, February 20, 2014

ABS throws wonks into panic attack!

Detailed employment data out today includes those always interesting regional numbers. The ABS clearly decided that some people didn't have enough to do and changed the regional reporting structure: Analysis of changes to labour force regional estimates.

The numbers are now reported for the Cairns SA4 statistical area rather than Far North. This is the ABS map of the changes with the old Far North boundary reduced to the dark green area for Cairns SA4. The Cape and interior are now included in Qld - Outback SA4.

So the new SA4 area is a component of the old Far North and apart from Cairns City basically comprises Douglas/Daintree, Eastern Tablelands and Cassowary Coast down to Cardwell.

As a labour market size comparison between the two based on the ABS December numbers there were 108k employed in Cairns SA4 while in Far North it was 134K. The new more concentrated area comprises the bulk of the population and labour market of what was Far North.

I suspect many will be more content with this data rather than the broader Far North although it remains just as volatile and seems to have more sample size warnings also. However there is likely to be some confusion in reporting as we can't just compare the latest month with data from the previous series.

What we can do, and ABS have provided similar examples for other areas, is compare how the two series themselves differ up until December 2013.


While the basic patterns and trends correlate (recently very closely) there have been some interesting previous anomalies and perhaps unexpected differences between the12 months averages with Cairns recently moving higher than Far North?

This should all provide hours of fun for some playing with spreadsheets and data. I will await for Conus to recompile their trend series from the new data: FNQ jobs data now becomes Cairns SA4 data


  1. Mark, not quite a panic attack but certainly some extra work!! Unfortunately I had just spent a few hours working on the "old" data looking at the impact of demographic changes on the PR (riveting stuff that will now appear in The CONUS Quarterly on Mar 5th); that now all needs redoing too.
    Anyway, Trends for "Cairns" now done and it doesn't make great reading either. See the blog for details and a comparison chart.
    Will try and get "Townsville" done at some stage tomorrow.

  2. At least the new ABS format has placed Cairns in their spreadsheet list at the top of Queensland regions and well above Townsville! What? It's just alphabetical order?

    A few quirky things to look at in there though! The very low unemployment rates for Cairns around mid 2010 just don't look right at all, yet they correlated with quite high participation rates. The participation rate in the past year looks woeful so a demographic perspective on that would be interesting.