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Cairns shows the way for state in jobs growth


Townsville and Cairns have shown a remarkable resurgence in jobs growth.

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North Queensland is going through a job resurgence with employment growth in Townsville and Cairns at 5.8 per cent and 6.2 per cent, respectively, according to Conus Consulting.

That puts Cairns at a growth rate three times that of Greater Brisbane. Townsville’s performance contrasts with the dire situation after the collapse of the Yabulu nickel refinery in 2016, when unemployment reached into double figures. It was also hit by devastating floods last year, which can have a positive economic impact over time because of the activity generated in new building.

But there are sour notes in the analysis. Townsville’s youth unemployment is at 22.7 per cent and its overall unemployment rate is still high at 8.9 per cent. The proportion of people in the job market in Townsville also remains well below its average.

“On a hypothetical basis, all other things remaining equal and with population growth at about 1.5 per cent, if you wanted to see an unemployment rate (in Townsville) closer to 6.5 per cent with participation rate at 68.2 per cent then you would need about 8500 more employed than now,” Faulkner said.

“At the current (solid 5.8 per cent) rate of employment growth that would take a little over a year.

“So, to go from 8.9 per cent to 6.5 per cent, while participation rate increases a little further, is doable in about 14-15 months so long as employment growth can remain as strong as currently. That’s quite a big ask as the 20 year average for Townsville is closer to 1.5 per cent.

“I’d say that, so long as employment growth remains robust, we’re likely to see the unemployment rate shifting lower in the first half of this year, but it will take some time to get back to a level closer to state average.”

His analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed that regional Queensland still lags behind Great Brisbane in job growth.

Using the regional labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Faulkner said trend employment growth for Greater Brisbane was now 2.9 per cent while the rest of Queensland “languishes well behind” on growth of 1.7 per cent.

Brisbane is also outperforming the rest of the nation which has a growth rate of 2.1 per cent.

“The trend unemployment rate in Queensland in December fell to 6 per cent while it now sits at 5.8 per cent in Greater Brisbane and 6.4 per cent in the Rest of Queensland,” he said.

“During the year to December the trend unemployment rate in Greater Brisbane fell by 0.6 per cent while it went up 0.5 per cent  in the Rest of Queensland.”

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