Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Do you see what I see?

A recent post was noted at Conus on a favourite topic: A look at the gender split in Cairns’ jobs market .

This related to a recent post by a former politician and alleged journalist (or should that be the other way around) at Cairns Now: Is it getting harder for women to find jobs in Cairns compared to men?
If you're female and looking for a job, Cairns was a tough place to be in March. While economists prefer the trend rate when it comes to employment statistics, increasingly the month of March is showing more women are giving up looking for jobs in Cairns with last month's participation rate at its lowest point for women than at any time in the past decade.
There are some issues I think with this analysis and conclusion. I will ignore the dodgy king-parrot-nomics methodology of comparing the raw data female participation rate for the single month of March over the past decade. Lets start with the Cairns SA4 participation rate:

The decline in the Cairns participation rate has been a concern and significant relative to broad declines both nationally and in Queensland over the period. Not without irony the ex-member for Cairns only seems to have discovered this problem since becoming an ex-member.
The gender split in the Cairns labour force data has been a subject of interests and previous posts at Loose Change. Pete has kindly forwarded his Conus Trend gender data and I have overlaid this to update my existing graphs. This is the spread between the male and female participation rates for the series:

Blue = Conus Trend; Red = 12 month average
The male participation rate is typically higher. The early part of the series here shows part of the structural trend increase over several decades in female participation. The trend spread has been relatively stable and ranged sideways over the past ten tears which is also the period chosen by Cairns Now. The green line is the ten year average. The current numbers are sort of very average. The trend spread has been just below that average and very stable for some time.
Diversion: Note that as we break down data into sub-sectors it becomes increasingly more volatile even on a trend or moving average basis. The ABS data comes flagged with sample size warnings. The combined data for Cairns is sometimes flagged. The subsector male-female data is only sometimes not flagged. Also note that the trend data can appear more volatile at times than the lagging 12 month average but is also a better indicator of any turning points. I think Pete has posted on this before at Conus.
I find it difficult to justify that there is some kind of significant relative deterioration in the female participation rate in Cairns. Lets look at the unemployment rate differential:

Blue = Conus Trend; Red = 12 month average
Clearly there was a period around a year or so ago that was somewhat unusual when the two rates split with a low female unemployment rate diverging and opened up a wide spread against the male rate. Yes, participation rates can play a role in that. I think at the time I posted that this threw up more than usual caution for me on the sample. Lets look at female employment as a proportion of total employment:

Blue = Conus Trend; Red = 12 month average
As Pete has noted at Conus, the trend female data has shown some deterioration since last July. However that also comes off previous relative highs and remains in line with or above average. Again, some of those monthly raw data numbers in 1H 2014 throw up sample concerns. Could the proportion of female employment really have been 49% in May 2014?
Lastly, the male and female employment estimates for the series. In this one the Conus Trend is a dotted line and the solid line a 12 month average as used by the Qld Gov't Statistician.

Blue = Conus Trend; Red = 12 month average
I can't see any basis for comparative weakness in female employment here. What I see, or think I see, looks more to me like signs of a reversion to the mean in some of the  recent data.

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