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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Population growth surprise

Population grows by 316,000

Australia's estimated resident population increased by +94,000 in the first quarter 2015 to be +316,000 higher than one year ago.

This took the total resident population at March to an estimated 23,715,000, thereby implying in turn that the population of Australia today is now around 23,881,000.

The estimated quarterly increase for March of +93,942 was of course considerably higher than the +64,010 seen in the December quarter, but was some 17 per cent lower than the equivalent figure for the March 2014 quarter of +112,581.

That said, the recent figures for births have clearly been understated - particularly in New South Wales and Victoria - and probably by a significant number in my estimation.

As is almost self-evident from the data below, the New South Wales births registry transitioned to a new data processing system in September 2014...but (unless there is a new form of contraception that I haven't yet heard of) unfortunately the system doesn't yet appear to be processing data quickly enough!

The ABS acknowledged as much in the explanatory notes to its release and expects to see a rebound in the births figures for New South Wales and Victoria over the next quarter or two. 

Components of population growth

Consequently the natural population increase figures for the past six months at the national level are also understated as you can see in the population drivers chart below.

What we can say with some certainty is that net overseas migration was still pulling back fairly sharply as at March 2015 declining to a rolling annual total of +173,000, which is a long way below the cyclical peak of more than +300,000.

The latest overseas arrivals and departures figures imply that the rate of population growth now appears to be gradually consolidating, but it will likely be several quarters yet before the total population growth figures reported in this data series stop declining. 

As we will see when I look at the detailed figures at the state level later, many of Australia's resources focussed regions appear set for an uncomfortable demographic shock as the mining construction boom turns to bust. 

The wrap

Although the rate of population growth nationally was rounded to +1.4 per cent, the actual reported result of +1.35 per cent is the slowest percentage rate of population growth seen since June 2006, the errors in the recently reported births data notwithstanding.

On the other hand population growth in the largest capital cities continues to track at remarkably high levels. 

The good news for Australia and uts economy is that employment growth has lately been tracking at a considerably more sprightly +2.0 per cent, and therefore the trend unemployment rate has been steady for the past year.