Employment by industry (Census)

Health Care and Social Assistance is the largest employer in Cairns, making up 19.0% of total employment.

Census employment data presents the number of persons employed in each industry sector (full-time and part-time) in Cairns regardless of where they live. By comparing the number of jobs in each industry sector to a regional benchmark, you can clearly see local economic strengths and weaknesses. By looking at how the number of jobs in each industry is changing over time, you can track how the structure of the local economy is changing. Go to the Employment locations page to see where employment is taking place across Cairns.

Note: Census employment figures are known to undercount employment by varying amounts depending on the Census year. All Census counts are an undercount of total population, and in addition, some people don’t state their workforce status or industry. Also counts by place of work exclude those with no fixed workplace address. For this reason, it is recommended that for total job numbers, users look at the Employment by industry (Total) modelled estimates which are updated on an annual basis, and based on the ABS Labour Force survey, less prone to undercount. The Census counts by industry are included here for a greater level of industry detail (3-digit ANZSIC).

Data source

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – Census 2016 & 2021 – by place of work

Current benchmark:
Did you know? By clicking/tapping on a data row in the table you will be able to see sub categories.
Employment (Census) by industry sector
IndustryNumber%. QueenslandNumber%. Queensland2016 - 2021
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing1,1181.52.61,0601.62.8+58
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services8291.11.26200.91.1+209
Wholesale Trade1,5782.12.31,6182.42.6-40
Retail Trade7,58810.29.37,62111.39.9-33
Accommodation and Food Services7,75010.47.27,13010.67.4+620
Transport, Postal and Warehousing4,1065.54.74,1796.25.1-73
Information Media and Telecommunications4060.50.95630.81.2-157
Financial and Insurance Services9951.32.51,0791.62.5-84
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services1,3221.81.81,4492.12.0-127
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services3,5294.76.73,2614.86.2+268
Administrative and Support Services2,4393.33.42,6784.03.5-239
Public Administration and Safety5,6317.66.15,4178.06.5+214
Education and Training6,9789.48.96,2499.39.0+729
Health Care and Social Assistance14,13319.015.410,31115.313.0+3,822
Arts and Recreation Services1,1281.51.51,3272.01.6-199
Other Services3,5344.73.92,9364.43.9+598
Industry not classified2,7793.74.52,5863.84.3+193
Total persons74,402100.0100.067,451100.0100.0+6,951

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 2016 and 2021. Compiled and presented by .id (informed decisions).

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 2021 shows the three most popular industry sectors were:

  • Health Care and Social Assistance (14,133 people or 19.0%)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (7,750 people or 10.4%)
  • Retail Trade (7,588 people or 10.2%)

In combination these three fields accounted for 29,471 people in total or 39.6% of the local workers.

In comparison, Queensland employed 15.4% in Health Care and Social Assistance; 7.2% in Accommodation and Food Services and 9.3% in Retail Trade.

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 Health Care and Social Assistance (19.0% compared to 15.4%)
  • A larger percentage of local workers employed in the field of Accommodation and Food Services (10.4% compared to 7.2%)
  • A smaller percentage of local workers employed in the field of Manufacturing (3.7% compared to 5.8%)
  • A smaller percentage of local workers employed in the field of Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (4.7% compared to 6.7%)

Emerging groups

The largest changes in the jobs held by local workers between 2016 and 2021 in Cairns were for those employed in:

  • Health Care and Social Assistance (+3,822 local workers)
  • Construction (+1,019 local workers)
  • Education and Training (+729 local workers)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (+620 local workers)

Cairns Regional Council

economic profile