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1383.0.55.001 - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators, 2009  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2009   
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Unemployment rate
Underutilisation rate
Line graph: Unemployment rate, 1998-2008Line graph: Underutilisation rate, 2001-2008
For technical information see Endnote 1.

Source: ABS data available on request, Labour Force Survey
For technical information see Endnote 2.

Source: ABS data available on request, Australian Labour Market Statistics

In 1998, the annual average unemployment rate was 7.7%. Since then it has generally fallen and the annual unemployment rate was 4.2% in 2008. The labour force underutilisation rate fell from 13.9% in 2001 to 10.2% in 2008.

Over the three months to March 2009, the trend series unemployment rate rose by 0.7 percentage points to 5.4% (see Endnote 1).


Paid work is the way most people obtain the economic resources needed for day to day living, for themselves and their dependants, and to meet their longer term financial needs. Having paid work contributes to a person's sense of identity and self-esteem. People's involvement in paid work also contributes to economic growth and development.

The unemployment rate has been chosen as the headline indicator, because of its relevance to the economic and social aspects of work. This rate is the number of unemployed people expressed as a percentage of the labour force, and is a widely used measure of underutilised labour resources in the economy. A second graph shows the labour force underutilisation rate. This is the number of unemployed and underemployed people combined, expressed as a proportion of the labour force (see Endnote 2). The labour force underutilisation rate gives a broader view of labour underutilisation than the unemployment rate alone.


State and territory spreadsheets
Work - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2006
Themes - Labour


1. The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed people expressed as a percentage of the labour force (employed plus unemployed people). The annual rates shown are the average of each month's unemployment rates, over the 12 months of the calendar year. Original data (rather than trend or seasonally adjusted data) have been used. Unemployment rates for each month can be obtained from Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) and the associated electronic release Labour Force, Australia, Detailed – Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 6291.0.55.001).

2. The labour force underutilisation rate is the number of people who are either unemployed or underemployed (defined below), expressed as a proportion of the labour force. The annual rate used here is the average of the rate for the four quarters in each calendar year (2001 based on 3 quarters of data). Labour force underutilisation rates can be found in the publication Australia Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0) and will be available as a standard labour force product later this year.

People who are unemployed or underemployed are defined as follows:
  • Unemployed - people aged 15 years and over who were not employed, and:
      • had actively looked for work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and were available for work in the reference week; or
      • were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the reference week and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then.
  • Underemployed - people working part-time (i.e. people who usually work less than 35 hours a week in all jobs) who wanted to work additional hours and were available to work more hours, either in the reference week or in the four weeks subsequent to the survey; and full-time workers who worked less than 35 hours in the reference week, for economic reasons.


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