Cairns employment market performing well in tough national economy

The Cairns unemployment rate is back below the state average in a positive sign for the local economy.

The January figures show the unemployment rate was 5.8%, just below the state average of 6.1%.

Despite ongoing concerns about coronavirus, the annual trend employment growth remains strong in Cairns at +8.1%, much higher than the +2.3% recorded across Queensland.

Economist Pete Faulkner from Conus said much of the new employment came in the middle-aged cohort (+6,100) with the older cohort adding 4,700 and youth sector slightly weaker.

"Over the course of the year full-time employment is up strongly (+11,400)," Mr Faulkner said.

"The Trend labour force data in Cairns has been generally improving solidly for more than 12 months
although that had reversed somewhat in latter part of 2019.

"There can be little doubt that the labour market in Cairns is still quite firm, although we are yet to see the likely negative impact of COVID-19 on this data.

"This strength is also reflected in the strong pick-up in Trend Participation which sits at a 7-year high. Were it not for this strength in participation the unemployment rate would be much lower."

The quarterly Conus Trend Industry Jobs data for November showed that the sectors seeing significant gains
over the past year were Healthcare (+3,900), Education (+3,600) and Construction (+2,700). The greatest
decline was once again in Retail (-2,600), which will not come as a surprise to anyone.

Eva Grabner from Elite Executive said the recruitment agency was still seeing a demand for qualified, senior staff.

"January started off positively, showing confidence in the Cairns market that was lacking slightly in the latter half of 2019," Ms Grabner said.

"Businesses are moving forward despite two elections this year which can sometimes slow employment due to uncertainty. We are not yet seeing an effect of COVID-19 on our clients but are preparing for a slowdown as this flows through the community.

"On a positive note, construction projects are moving ahead with confidence and we are seeing a demand for skilled engineers, designers, account managers and senior staff with many of our clients in Cairns and throughout Australia."