ABS 12-month data for April reveals some curious information for Townsville Region and most other regions. The ABS says the regional data has limitations. We expect regional unemployment rates are distorted by its definition, that is you have to be looking for work to be considered unemployed.  Covid-19 restrictions meant many people couldn’t leave their home to look for a job.  Also this data does not include the effect of Jobkeeper payment that started in early May.  The official preference is for 12 month average variable such as in unemployment.  This means we are including 11 months prior to the current conditions.

Clayton Cook talking to the media 22 May 2020 on Employment data

Locals say UE rate is closer to 14% but Townsville can recover QUICKER than most

According to ABS 12-month data for April, Townsville Regional Unemployment rate in was 7.6% and jobs numbers have hardly moved.  Local knowledge will dispute this figure.  We will use a combination of payroll data and local knowledge to help explain why we think the Townsville unemployment rate is closer to 14%, but could recover quicker than many other locations.

TP Human Capital (HR Firm) Managing Director Clayton Cook said, “According to official monthly data Townsville Regional job numbers dropped16,400 in a month. Females loosing 8,400 jobs and Males 8,000.  Understanding the local conditions, we think this is a better reflection of workforce conditions in Townsville region.  Younger workers are more likely to have lost a job and Accommodation, restaurants, cafes, recreation services and Real estate firms are more likely to have been strongly negatively affected.  Some industries have shown solid resilience and in Townsville they are large and we specialise in these industries.  These industries include Public Sector, Defence and Health.

Before Covid -19 restrictions Townsville Region was trending positively and is expected to recover QUICKER than many other regions.”

Mr Cook said “the key messages going forward included

·      Developing a diversified Covid-19 recovery strategy. 

·      Getting our Accommodation, Foodie, retail, Recreation and Real Estate sectors back to business as soon as possible.

·      Households Supporting LOCAL businesses and LOCAL jobs

·      Local business having an online presence.

·      Our region combining with other regions to spearhead a wider regional recovery. 

·      Decentralisation supported by public and private sectors.

Regional Economist Colin Dwyer agreed and said  recent (Tuesday) ABS Payroll jobs data and local knowledge supported the concept of an unemployment rate over 13%.   Payroll jobs data revealed our regions of Outback (-5.0%) and Townsville (-6.5%) lost fewer payroll jobs between 14 March and 18 April than national average (7.1%) and State average (7.4%). Unsurprisingly tourist specialised regions faired worst in country they included Cairns (9.1%), Sunshine Coast (10.2%) and Gold Coast (9%).

From this data we extrapolate that Townsville lost about 7,000 jobs.  The official number of Townsville region unemployed prior to CV-19 was about 9,000.  So our estimate for the local ‘underproductive rate’ in Townsville Region is about 13.5 to 14%.  (This is similar to our adapted Monthly Unemployment rate.)  If we consider estimated underemployment in the region then the local ‘underutilisation rate’ is over 20%, which is higher than the national average of 19.9%.

From the recent Payroll data the industries with the lowest jobs losses include Health Care and Social Assistance (-1%), Electricity and Water services (-1.6%), Public Administration and Defence (-1.7%), Education (-1.8%) and Construction (-6.5%).  These are all industries where Townsville specialises.  Suggesting a solid foundation for a quicker recovery.

Mr Dwyer said ‘Key variables for recovery include 

·      Regional Restriction Relaxation Rate

·      Regional Industry specialisation  

·      Impacted industry’s rate of recovery 

·      Significant projects,

·      Diversification in projects and

·      operational jobs creation. 

Townsville has a significant and diversified projects portfolio that includes

  • Multiple projects at RAAF Townsville features on the $870 million Federal Forward Release Program -  Defence
  • Cowboys High performance centre Recreation,
  • $1.1b Singapore defence project - Defence
  • JCU Accommodation project- Education.
  • TPA channel widening$192m - Transport,
  • Federal Haughton bridge project - Transport,
  • Tobruk Pool -Recreation,
  • St Pats performance hall -Education,
  • Suns Metals refinery -Manufacturing
  • Seaview pub renovations Tourism
  • Mater Hospital Projects - Health

DS Economics has a comprehensive list of significant Townsville region projects.  Townsville private and public significant projects are much better than 2013-2016.