Employment by industry (Total)

In Cairns, Health Care and Social Assistance is the largest employer, generating 13,770 local jobs in 2020/21.

Employment (total) is the most accurate and up to date measure of the total number of people employed in Cairns. The statistics are modelled by NIEIR to correct for the known undercount of jobs recorded in the Census. They estimate the total number of persons employed in an industry sector (full-time and part-time) in Cairns regardless of where they live. They are updated annually.

By comparing the number of jobs in each industry sector to a regional benchmark, you can clearly see the structure of Cairns's economy. This can be done by directly comparing the area to its benchmark, or by using a location quotient to look at the relative size of industries.

Estimated total employment by industry should not be considered as a "Full-Time Equivalent" measure as different industries will have different ratios of part-time and full time employees. Full-time employment by industry statistics are also available.

To see how employment is distributed across the area, see the Employment locations section and to see where people come from to work in these industries, these data should be viewed in conjunction with Workers place of residence by industry data.

More granular sub-categories for each industry sector are available in the Employment by industry (Census) counts. While Census figures undercount employment they do provide a more detailed picture of the specific industries operating in the area.

Data source

National Economics (NIEIR) - Modelled series

Please note – Detailed notes about how the figures are derived can be found in the specific topic notes section.
Current benchmark:
Comparison year:
Did you know? By clicking/tapping on a data row in the table you will be able to see sub categories.
Employment (total) by industry
IndustryNumber%. QueenslandNumber%. Queensland2015/16 - 2020/21
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing1,3601.63.21,4091.82.8-49
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services7550.91.29161.21.3-161
Wholesale Trade2,1312.53.01,8932.52.9+238
Retail Trade8,37310.09.58,65411.310.3-281
Accommodation and Food Services9,34611.26.97,81710.27.4+1,529
Transport, Postal and Warehousing4,8285.85.14,9036.45.2-74
Information Media and Telecommunications9721.21.48401.11.4+132
Financial and Insurance Services2,0752.52.91,3221.72.6+753
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services1,6482.01.91,5982.12.0+50
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services4,4285.37.13,9145.16.7+514
Administrative and Support Services2,7343.33.23,2614.33.5-528
Public Administration and Safety6,2217.46.75,8907.76.5+331
Education and Training7,1278.59.17,69510.09.5-568
Health Care and Social Assistance13,77016.414.411,52215.013.2+2,248
Arts and Recreation Services1,7192.11.71,6442.11.7+75
Other Services3,3264.03.83,3904.44.1-64
Total industries83,721100.0100.076,648100.0100.0+7,073

Source: National Institute of Economic and Industry Research (NIEIR) ©2021. Compiled and presented in by .id (informed decisions). NIEIR-ID data are adjusted each year, using updated employment estimates. Each release may change previous years’ figures. Learn more

Please refer to specific data notes for more information
Did you know? By clicking/tapping on a category in the chart below you will be able to drilldown to the sub categories.
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Dominant groups

An analysis of the jobs held by the local workers in Cairns in 2020/21 shows the three largest industries were:

  • Health Care and Social Assistance (13,770 people or 16.4%)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (9,346 people or 11.2%)
  • Construction (8,605 people or 10.3%)

In combination these three fields accounted for 31,721 people in total or 37.9% of the local workers.

In comparison, Queensland employed 14.4% in Health Care and Social Assistance; 6.9% in Accommodation and Food Services and 9.3% in Construction.

The major differences between the jobs held by local workers of Cairns and Queensland were:

  • A larger percentage of local workers employed in the field of Accommodation and Food Services (11.2% compared to 6.9%)
  • A smaller percentage of local workers employed in the field of Manufacturing (4.2% compared to 6.9%)
  • A larger percentage of local workers employed in the field of Health Care and Social Assistance (16.4% compared to 14.4%)
  • A smaller percentage of local workers employed in the field of Mining (0.9% compared to 3.0%)

Emerging groups

The number of local workers in Cairns increased by increased by 7,073 between 2015/16 and 2020/21.

  • Health Care and Social Assistance (+2,248 local workers)
  • Construction (+2,203 local workers)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (+1,529 local workers)
  • Financial and Insurance Services (+753 local workers)

Cairns Regional Council

economic profile