Regional unemployment highs and lows: CommSec's Craig James

Regional unemployment highs and lows: CommSec's Craig James
Regional unemployment highs and lows: CommSec's Craig James
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The Wide Bay region in Queensland has the highest regional unemployment rate in the nation with the jobless rate averaging 10.5% over the year to October.

Regions with lowest jobless rates: Sydney’s Northern Beaches had a jobless rate of 2.5% in the year to October – the lowest in the nation.

Mining regions suffer: Jobless rates in the Hunter Valley and Mackay have broadly doubled in the past 2-3 years.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics provides regional job market data each month. The good news is that over 90 regions are covered by the statistics. The bad news is that the data is not adjusted for seasonal variations and not provided in an easily digestible format.

CommSec has assessed the average unemployment rates over the twelve months to October and presented tables showing the 15 regions with the highest unemployment rates and the 15 regions with the lowest unemployment rates.

NSW regions dominate both lists – the regions of high and low unemployment. NSW leads the state and territory economic performance rankings but job markets clearly differ markedly across the state.

When assessing national and state economic performance, the variations in performance across regions tend to be downplayed. But while the data may be harder to get and analyse, policymakers need to be mindful of the regions facing the most challenging conditions. Regional Queensland is doing it tough – especially in the north. And mining regions are suffering.

Interestingly, Tasmanian regions don’t feature in either of the lists of high and low jobless rates. Across Tasmanian regions, unemployment was between 6.1- 7.5% over the past year. 

 
 
Regional unemployment highs and lows: CommSec's Craig James

High unemployment regions

The region with the highest jobless rate over the past year was Wide Bay with a 10.5% jobless rate over the past year. The good news is that unemployment was recorded at 6.2 per cent in October, below the short-term average and the 15-year average of 8.7%.

The downturn in the coal industry has clearly affected the job market in the Hunter Valley. Over the past year the jobless rate averaged 10.2% – well above the 5.8% average over the past 15 years.
The Hunter Valley also has the highest variation between the short and longer term jobless rate – 4.4 percentage points (pp) between the 12-month average jobless rate and 15-year average. Next highest is Murray, NSW (3.5pp); Mackay, Qld (3.1pp); and South-east South Australia (3.1pp).

Other regions with high unemployment are Richmond Tweed, NSW (9.8%), Mandurah, WA (9.1%) and Murray, NSW (9.0%).

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Regional unemployment highs and lows: CommSec's Craig James

Low unemployment regions

The region with the lowest jobless rate over the past year was Sydney’s Northern Beaches at 2.5%. That is probably not overly remarkable as the jobless rate has averaged 3.0 per cent over the past 15 years.


Five other Sydney regions are also on the list of the regions with the lowest jobless rates in the nation.

Victoria has two entries on the list of low jobless rates: Warrnambool & South West (2.9%) and Melbourne – Inner South (4.5%).
Ballarat has the lowest variation between the short and longer term jobless rate. The 12-month average jobless rate is 2.1pp below the 15-year average. Next best is Warrnambool and South West (-1.9pp); and Sydney – South West (-1.4pp).

What is the importance of the economic data?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides detailed labour market figures one week after releasing ‘top level’ statistics of employment & unemployment levels across states and territories. The detailed data is useful in identifying broader underlying trends and instructive about the health of the economy.

What are the implications for interest rates and investors?

There are good reasons for the Reserve Bank to maintain an easing bias. While the economy is improving, too many parts of Australia and still struggling with relative high jobless rates – 78 of 99 regions have short-term average jobless rates above longer-term averages. Mining areas are doing it especially tough.

 

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Regional unemployment highs and lows: CommSec's Craig James
 
Savanth Sebastian is an economist for CommSec

Craig James

Craig James

Craig James is the Chief Economist at CommSec, interpreting ‘big picture’ economic and financial trends.

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