Regional labour market statistics - March 2011

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Regional labour market statistics - March 2011

Posted 20/04/2011 by Guy Woods

The March regional labour force data reveal that employment levels have grown and unemployment rates have fallen across most of Australia. However, for some regions things remain difficult as they struggle to provide enough jobs for their local labour force.

Queensland encapsulated the best and worst of the nation’s labour market outcomes. It recorded the lowest unemployment rate of 2.1 per cent in the West Moreton Statistical Region and the highest at 10.6 per cent in the Far North Statistical Region.

Between March 2010 and March 2011 the biggest improvement in the unemployment rate occurred in the Far West Statistical Division (New South Wales); 20.6 per cent to 6.6 per cent. The biggest deterioration occurred in the Murray-Murrumbidgee Statistical Region; 4.7 per cent to 7.3 per cent. However, the huge fall in the Far West Statistical Division does not look so good when the region’s Labour force participation rate is considered. Between March 2010 and March 2011 the participation rate fell from 52.3 per cent to 44.4 per cent; the lowest labour force participation in the country.

Table 1. Top five regions with lowest unemployment rates

West Moreton Statistical Region(Queensland)2.1 per cent
South Eastern Statistical Region(New South Wales)2.3 per cent
South West Metropolitan Region (Metropolitan Perth)2.7 per cent
Central Metropolitan Statistical Region (Metropolitan Perth)3.0 per cent
Lower Northern Sydney Statistical Region(Metropolitan Sydney)3.5 per cent

In all of the above regions, with the exception of the Central Metropolitan Statistical Region of Perth, the labour force participation rates also increased. These are indications of strong local economies that are growing fast enough to keep up with the labour market demands of their populations.

Table 2. Top five regions with highest unemployment rates

Far North Statistical Region (Queensland)10.6 per cent
Ipswich Statistical Region (Queensland)8.4 per cent
Southern Statistical Division (Tasmania)8.2 per cent
Gold Coast Statistical Region (Queensland)8.0 per cent
Central Highlands – Wimmera Statistical Region(Victoria)7.9 per cent

Things appear to be particularly dire in the Far North West Statistical Region of Queensland and the Southern Statistical Division of Tasmania. Even though the unemployment rates actually fell in these two regions, so did the labour force participation rates. This is an indication that the local economy is failing to keep up with the labour market demands of its working age population. In table 4. it can be seen that Southern Statistical Division of Tasmania experienced the second highest rate of job losses in the year through to March 2011.

A similar problem may explain the situation in The Gold Coast North Statistical Region, although for a different reason. Here the unemployment rate went up despite an increase in the number of employed persons and the participation rate. This is an indication that the local economy is not growing fast enough to keep up with population growth and associated labour market demands. As shown in Table 3. the Gold Coast had the fifth largest increase in employment in the year through to March 2011; so it is growing, but just not fast enough.

All told, between March 2010 and March 2011, employment grew by 2.8 per cent; over 300 000 thousand jobs. At 3.8 per cent, New South Wales was the fastest growing state; it accounted for 42 per cent of all the new jobs in the country.

Table 3. Top five regions in terms of jobs growth (percentage change March 2010 to March 2011)
South Eastern Statistical Region (New South Wales)16.0 per cent
Central Western Sydney Statistical Region(Metropolitan Sydney) 14.5 per cent
Richmond-Tweed and Mid-North Coast Statistical Regions(New South Wales) 13.9 per cent
Canterbury-Bankstown Statistical Region(Metropolitan Sydney)13.3 per cent
Gold Coast North Statistical Region Sector (Queensland) 13.2 per cent

Table 4. The top five regions in terms of job losses (percentage change March 2010 to March 2011
Gosford-Wyong Statistical Region (New South Wales) 10.7 per cent
Southern Statistical Division (Tasmania)8.4 per cent
Wide Bay-Burnett Statistical Region(Queensland) 8.1 per cent
South Eastern Melbourne Statistical Region(Metropolitan Melbourne) 4.4 per cent
Central Northern Sydney Statistical Region(Metropolitan Sydney)3.9 per cent

In summary, the labour market data reveal significant regional differences. Some regions are doing exceptionally well and others are struggling to provide enough jobs for their local populations. In regions such as the West Moreton Statistical Region of Queensland and the South Eastern Statistical Region of New South Wales unemployment is practically non-existent. In other regions, particularly regions located away from the major economic centres, things are not so good. Some of these regions have recorded high unemployment rates and/or low labour force participation rates. Even the apparently impressive turnaround experienced by the Far West Statistical Division of New South Wales needs to be seen in light of the labour force participation rate.

Senators and Members can view the full range of regional unemployment statistics on the Library’s intranet page at http://libiis1/Library_Services/electoralatlas/SmallArea.htm. More statistics and information are also available in the ABS publication - Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery, Mar 2011, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001 at

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