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  • Gavin King

    Tropic Now editor

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    Confusion over tourism, building stats but Cairns economy still tracking on positive course

    The current state of the Cairns economy is baffling to even the most seasoned of data analysts.

    In his latest Cairns Watch report, Herron Todd White's Rick Carr points to conflicting statistics on the tourism industry and also warns building approval figures "may or may not be accurate".

    "There are mixed signals on the Cairns tourism sector, with TRA Statistics (which are survey based and hence subject to sampling error) showing domestic plus international tourism going down in 2016-17, whereas airport statistics (which are accurate counts but don’t cover all tourism) show an increase," Mr Carr said. 

    Mr Carr's monthly Cairns Watch report focuses on Cairns Airport figures, which he said are "continuing to deliver strong growth in year-on-year terms".

    Over the twelve months to August 2017, passenger numbers have increased in trend terms by 2.8% at the domestic terminal, 9.6% at the international terminal, and 3.7% overall.

    On building approvals, Mr Carr said the figures reported for July 2017 have ebbed from the first home-buyer induced spikes of May-June 2017, but nevertheless remain above the average of immediately preceding months.

    "However we continue to have doubts about the veracity of the very low figures reported for the October 2016 to April 2017 period. The number of building approvals reported are now technically indicating a trend of around 50 new houses and units being approved per month, but again we caution that this may or may not be accurate."

    Despite the apparent confusion, Mr Carr is confident the economy has "remained positive".

    "Cairns has achieved a strong employment increase and significantly reduced unemployment during 2016-17. Furthermore these positive conditions have continued through to the current month."

    "Strong employment growth has flowed though into a significant reduction in the region’s unemployment rate trend compared to twelve months ago," he said. 

    "Even so, declines in the region’s unemployment rate have flattened off over the last few months as a result of more and more people entering the labour force to look for work.

    "The Cairns Region had a seasonally adjusted trend unemployment rate of 5.7% as at August 2017, up slightly from a revised trend of 5.6% in July 2017. Despite the slight rise, the Cairns Region’s trended unemployment rate remains respectably below the August 2017 State average of 6.0%."