I was surprised when I read Deloitte’s latest commentary on the Queensland economy, as reported by the Courier-Mail on Thursday (Jobless rate hides Qld’s economic success story), because the commentary makes little sense:
QUEENSLAND’S economy is performing strongly despite the country’s highest unemployment rate, analysis released today reveals.
“Queenslanders are more positive about finding a job,” Deloitte Access Economics partner Natasha Doherty said in the latest quarterly outlook report on the state.
Although the 6 per cent jobless rate is 1 per cent above the national average, it has to be viewed in the context of more people seeking work, Ms Doherty said.
“This is against the backdrop of strong employment growth with 35,000 jobs added over the year to September.
The quoted 35,000 jobs growth over-the-year to September corresponds to a growth rate of only 1.4%, compared with 2.4% nationwide and state population growth of 1.8%. This cannot be considered strong employment growth and, indeed, I would call it moderate at best. Oddly, Deloitte hasn’t quoted the latest ABS Labour Force Survey data which show Queensland employment growth at the lower rate of 1.1% compared with 2.3% nationwide through-the-year to October (see my post on these figures and Queensland Treasury’s briefing). Deloitte emphasises that, according to the ABS data, much of recent jobs growth has been in full-time positions. But Queensland’s rate of full-time employment growth at 1.8% is lower than the national rate of 2.4% and is around the population growth rate, so it’s nothing extraordinary.
Deloitte is also wrong to point to more people seeking work as an explanation of the state unemployment rate staying at 6%+ while the national rate has declined to 5.1%. Deloitte would have been right to point to an increase in state labour force participation in 2017, but over the year to October 2018 Queensland’s participation rate has fallen from 65.9% to 65.6% (see chart below). Furthermore, in October, the participation rates for Queensland and Australia were equal at 65.6%. We can therefore reject Deloitte’s hypothesis that Queensland’s current 6%+ unemployment rate is due to more people than usual seeking work, which would require the labour force participation rate to have increased over the year, something which did not occur. Instead, Queensland’s current 6.2% unemployment rate is related to the state experiencing only modest employment growth, at a rate lower than the population growth rate.
Deloitte’s commentary on the Queensland labour market is inconsistent with the latest data and makes little sense.