A closer look at the surge in net interstate migration to Qld in September quarter 2020

Earlier this week, Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles was excited by the latest interstate migration data from the ABS, as reported by the Brisbane Times:

Queensland’s acting Premier has pointed to migration data showing a surge in new residents as an endorsement of the state’s pandemic response…

Interstate migration data, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week, revealed Queensland gained the most new residents during the September quarter while NSW and Victoria went backwards.

I have previously speculated that the pandemic would prompt many people in southern states to contemplate a change of lifestyle and a move to Queensland. And there have been plenty of anecdotes from real estate agents about prospective buyers from southern states inquiring about Queensland properties, particularly on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. Are we already seeing a pick up in interstate migration to Queensland in the data up to the end of September 2020? Let’s have a closer look at the data published by the ABS earlier this week (chart below).*

Net interstate migration to Queensland was over 7,200 people in September quarter 2020 compared with around 5,500 people in September quarter 2019, a 32% increase through-the-year, so the Deputy Premier is on solid ground referring to a surge. Notice how net interstate migration has been on an upward trend since 2015, but still has not reached the levels of the early 2000s, or the late eighties or early nineties.

Net interstate migration to a state is equal to interstate arrivals to the state less interstate departures from the state. It can be positive, if arrivals exceed departures, or negative if the opposite occurs. Let’s break down the net interstate migration figures into arrivals and departures to have a closer look at what’s going on in the recent data (see chart below).

In September quarter 2020, interstate arrivals to Queensland were around 22,300 and were lower than arrivals in September quarter 2019 of around 23,500 people. That’s to be expected given the suppressed level of economic activity and hiring during the pandemic and due to the difficulties in travelling during this time. Even though arrivals from interstate were lower, net interstate migration to Queensland was much higher in September quarter 2020 than in September 2019 because there was a big drop in people departing to other states from Queensland. Around 15,100 people moved from Queensland to other states and territories in September quarter 2020, down around 2,900 people from the September quarter 2019 level of around 18,000 people. So nearly 3,000 Queenslanders who may otherwise have moved to other states in September quarter, stayed in Queensland instead.

Notice how arrivals to Victoria have dropped substantially through-the-year (13,400 in September quarter 2020 vs 19,200 in September quarter 2019), but departures from the state have stayed similar to the level in September 2019, at around 17,100 people. So net interstate migration to Victoria turned around from a positive figure of 2,030 people in September quarter 2019 to a negative figure of -3,749 in September quarter 2020. In NSW, interstate departures declined more than interstate arrivals, so net interstate migration was around -4,100 in September quarter 2020 compared with around -4,600 in September quarter 2019, meaning NSW actually lost fewer people in the September quarter in 2020 than in 2019.

If we look at the ABS’s estimates of net interstate migration flows between specific states, we see that the major contributor to the surge in net interstate migration to Queensland in September quarter 2020 was the big increase in the loss of people from Victoria to Queensland (see chart below). In September quarter 2019, Queensland gained 772 people from Victoria, but in September quarter 2020 we gained 2,362 people from Victoria. The net gain from NSW increased, too, but not by as much as it did for Victoria. In September quarter 2019, Queensland gained 3,714 people from NSW, and in September quarter 2020 we gained 4,027 people from NSW.

*Note there is a seasonal pattern in the data, which have not been seasonally adjusted by the ABS, and hence September quarter 2020 data will be compared with data for September quarter 2019.

Please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email comments, questions, suggestions, or hot tips to contact@queenslandeconomywatch.com

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4 Responses to A closer look at the surge in net interstate migration to Qld in September quarter 2020

  1. Russell says:

    Hi Gene, I expected this with the over the top draconian rules initially imposed on victorians. Then with successive lockdowns. I am seeing evidence of this migration at Airlie Beach with rental properties. Rents moving up and a vacancies filled well before the existing tenants move out. Whilst domestic tourism has picked up it is not enough to account for loss of OS visitors but more people are moving there. Interesting when all the stimulus ends if they will have jobs.

  2. Glen says:

    Interesting Gene, if Steven Miles thinks this is an endorsement of the Qld Govt policies he is delusional. Many in the mining industry have had to return to Qld as they couldn’t FIFO from southern states anymore, NT has also had a similar result. It’s not just mining but many other industries and professionals have had no choice but to move to Qld for the duration of Covid19. This is why places like Townsville, Mackay and Darwin have had a better year than they normally would have, but this will be a temporary thing and once borders open with more confidence many will return to southern states and resume their FIFO life.

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