Townsville-based economist Colin Dwyer is getting very worried about his region’s economy, noting in an email to his mailing list today that:
“Economic conditions have deteriorated in North Australia’s largest city. The unemployment rate is the worst it’s been for 13 years…The official Townsville region unemployment rate is 12.4% up from 8.8% last month. The number of unemployed has jumped to 13,100 the highest number since February 2003 (13.5k).”
Colin is referring to the original ABS data, which are highly volatile and unreliable, but that said I think Colin is right about Townsville’s deteriorating conditions, particularly given job losses revealed in the smoothed data preferred by Queensland Treasury (see chart above), and also given the large shock to the regional economy coming from the Nickel Refinery shutdown. As Pete Faulkner notes in his latest post (Regional jobs data is a Tale of 2 Cities in the North):
“…data shows the employment situation in Townsville as unambiguously terrible. Given that the complete fall-out from the QN debacle is yet to be seen in this data we do not expect to see this improving anytime soon.”
Using 12-month moving averages, Queensland Treasury estimates that Townsville’s unemployment rate is 8.3%, compared with a State average of 6.2% (see chart below and Treasury’s latest briefing note).
The Townsville economy is clearly in bad shape, and other regional economies are suffering, too. I expect regional jobs will be a major topic of discussion at next Tuesday’s Jobs Growth Summit, which is being hosted by my occasional employer the School of Economics at UQ and the Australia Institute (see my post Qld Jobs Growth Summit timely, but needs to be more than a talkfest). My business Adept Economics is providing a small amount of sponsorship to the Jobs Growth Summit, and I am very much looking forward to the discussion.
Incidentally, earlier today, the Australia Institute released a paper on Queensland’s employment outlook. The paper is much more upbeat about the State economy than I would be at the present time, but it is worth a look nonetheless: