Employment data on Cape York

A further look at the Cape York employment data following previous post on Aurukun. There was reform to indigenous employment schemes for remote communities from July 2015 with the implementation of the Community Development Program (CDP). This would correlate with the trend change in the Small Area Labour Market (SALM) data from that date.

The SALM explanatory notes do seem to indicate that some account is taken for this in the Centrelink data applied in the methodology. The increased unemployment rate in the SALM data for Aurukun is derived from both an increase in the number unemployed and a fall in the labour force size.

However the SALM methodology is also intended to be consistent with and also derived from the ABS Labour Force Survey for the SA4 region. The SA4 data for Outback follows the same clear trend from July 2015. This is Outback SA4 with a 12 month moving average and also  the Conus Trend (blue):


Again the trend break in July 2015 is significant across all factors reported by ABS (unemployed, labour  force, participation, etc.) contributing to the increased unemployment rate. The 12 month average just like the 4 quarter SALM data tends to  smooth what was a sharp break from July 2015. It isn’t clear to me why the labour force survey results for the entire SA4 region should be influenced so significantly by any CDP changes.

As suggested previously the Outback SA4 region is statistically difficult with a relatively low population (and sample size) covering a vast geography from Torres Strait to Birdsville with not much economic connection between those. It is also possible that much of what we are seeing in the trend reflects issues in the labour force sample for Outback.

The ABS sample rolls over eight months with only an eighth of the sample rolling in and out for successive months. The recent period has seen some extraordinary volatility even for Outback. In the recent March quarter of the SALM data the raw ABS unemployment rate for Outback SA4 has varied between 1.5% and 19.0% in successive months. Which is of course nonsense.

When the SALM methodology is applied to all the SA2 areas in Outback SA4 the unemployment rates look like this.


I don’t know. It may be worth a query to ABS and Dep’t of Employment.


    1. Thanks Gene. I did throw a query to SALM who have indicated the following:

      “The apportioning of SA4 data helps to explain the significant increase in the unemployment rate in the Cape York SA2, from 9.4 per cent in the June quarter 2015 to 23.7 per cent in the March quarter 2016. For instance, the level of unemployment in the Queensland – Outback SA4 (in which Cape York falls, as you have pointed out) has increased from 600 in June 2015, to 4,700 in March 2016, an increase of 635.4 per cent.”

      “You may wish to contact the ABS regarding what factors might be contributing to the volatility in the Queensland – Outback SA4 data (which is clearly cascading down and having an impact on the SALM estimates within the region).”


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