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6203.0 - Labour Force, Australia, Apr 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 31/05/2002   
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  • Explanatory Notes


1 This publication contains estimates of the civilian labour force derived from the Labour Force Survey component of the Monthly Population Survey. Estimates of the labour force characteristics of family members and of family composition are also included.

2 Estimates of the civilian labour force are available for over 77 regions across Australia and are shown in various publications produced by State offices of the ABS. These data are also available as a special data service. For details, contact any ABS office.

3 Preliminary survey results are published in advance of this more detailed publication in Labour Force, Australia, Preliminary (6202.0).

4 Although emphasis in the population survey is placed on the regular collection of specific data on demographic and labour force characteristics of the population, supplementary and special surveys of particular aspects of the labour force or of other subjects are carried out from time to time. Statistics from these surveys are available on request. A list of survey publications on labour force and related topics appears at the end of this publication.


5 The conceptual framework used in Australia’s Labour Force Survey aligns closely with the standards and guidelines set out in Resolutions of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Descriptions of the underlying concepts and structure of Australia’s labour force statistics, and the sources and methods used in compiling the estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (Cat. no. 6102.0) which is also available on the ABS website (Statistics-Statistical Concepts Library).


6 The population survey is based on a multi-stage area sample of private dwellings (currently about 30,000 houses, flats, etc.) and a list sample of non-private dwellings (hotels, motels, etc.), and covers about 0.5% of the population of Australia. The information is obtained from the occupants of selected dwellings by specially trained interviewers. The information obtained relates to the week before the interview (i.e the reference week).

7 Households selected for the Labour Force Survey are interviewed each month for 8 months, with one eighth of the sample being replaced each month. The first interview is conducted face-to-face. Subsequent interviews are conducted by telephone (if acceptable to the respondent).

8 The interviews are generally conducted during the two weeks beginning on the Monday between the 6th and 12th of each month. Each year, to deal with operational difficulties involved with collecting and processing the Labour Force Survey around the Christmas and New Year holiday period, interviews for December start four weeks after November interviews start, and January interviews start five weeks after December interviews start. In addition, circumstances that present significant operational difficulties for survey collection can result in a change to the normal pattern for the start of interviewing.

9 Estimates from the Labour Force Survey are published first in Labour Force, Australia, Preliminary (Cat. no. 6202.0) 31 days after the commencement of interviews for that month, with the exception of estimates for each December which are published 38 days after the commencement of interviews.


10 The Labour Force Survey includes all persons aged 15 years and over except:

  • members of the permanent defence forces;
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments customarily excluded from census and estimated population counts;
  • overseas residents in Australia; and
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia.

From July 1993 Jervis Bay Territory has been excluded from the scope of the survey. Before July 1993 it was included in estimates for the Australian Capital Territory.


11 In the Labour Force Survey, coverage rules are applied which aim to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling, and hence has only one chance of selection. The chance of a person being enumerated at two separate dwellings in the one survey is considered to be negligible. See paragraph 51 for information about the effect of the coverage rules on family statistics.

12 Persons who are away from their usual residence for six weeks or less at the time of interview are enumerated at their usual residence (relevant information may be obtained from other usual residents present at the time of the survey).


13 Labour Force Survey estimates of persons employed, unemployed and not in the labour force are calculated in such a way as to add up to the independently estimated distribution of the usually resident population aged 15 and over by age and sex. This procedure compensates for under-enumeration in the survey, and leads to more reliable estimates. Persons who, at the time of interview, are overseas for more than six weeks but for less than 12 months are included in the independent population statistics (benchmarks) and are thus provided for in the calculation of the estimates. The benchmarks are the latest available estimates at the time the Labour Force Survey is conducted, but they usually differ from the official population estimates subsequently published in Australian Demographic Statistics (3101.0) because they are derived from incomplete information about population changes.


14 Survey estimates are not revised for the usually small amendments of population benchmarks arising from new data on deaths and overseas and internal migration. Revisions are made, however, after each Census of Population and Housing, and when population estimation bases are reviewed. These revisions affect original, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates. The last such revision was made in February 1999 to take account of the results of the 1996 Census of Population and Housing. This revision affected all the monthly estimates from January 1995 to January 1999.

15 Population benchmarks used in the estimation of Labour Force Survey data are compiled according to place of usual residence. An explanation of the place of usual residence conceptual basis for population estimates is given in Demographic Estimates and Projections: Concepts, Sources and Methods (3228.0) which is available on the ABS web site under Statistical Concepts Library.


16 National surveys were conducted in February, May, August and November each year from 1964 to February 1978. The survey has been conducted on a monthly basis since February 1978.


17 The questionnaire used in the survey for the collection of labour force data has been revised from time to time. Details of these changes have been published in Information Paper: Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey (6232.0) in March 1978, December 1981, August 1984, June 1986, June 1991, March 1993 and May 2001.

18 From April 2001, the Labour Force Survey has been conducted using a redesigned questionnaire containing additional data items and some minor definitional changes. Core labour force series have been revised for the period April 1986 to March 2001 to ensure continuity. For further details, see Information Paper: Implementing the Redesigned Labour Force Survey Questionnaire (Cat. no. 6295.0).


19 Future starters are those persons who were not employed during the reference week, and 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.

20 The current Labour Force Survey definition of unemployed only includes the subset of future starters who had actively looked for work in the four weeks to the end of the reference week (see Glossary). However, International Labour Organisation guidelines do not require future starters to be actively looking for work in order to be classified as unemployed. Hence, the current Labour Force Survey treatment of future starters is not fully consistent with the International Labour Organisation standards because the precondition of active job search is not waived, with the result that some future starters are defined as not in the labour force.

21 ABS considers that the Labour Force Survey definition of unemployed should be aligned with International Labour Organisation recommendations for the treatment of future starters (that is, all future starters should be classified as unemployed). The redesigned questionnaire introduced in April 2001 provides for the more complete identification of future starters to support this definitional change. However, due to concerns that such a change could possibly result in a break in the core labour force series, ABS decided to postpone implementation of this change until early 2004, when historical series will be revised to align with new benchmarks from the 2001 Population Census. This delay provides the time necessary to monitor the likely impact on core series of the changed treatment of future starters, using data from the redesigned questionnaire from April 2001 onwards. Analysis of data from the April 2002 Labour Force Survey shows that an estimated 12,200 future starters were not actively looking for work,
and hence were classified as not in the labour force.


22 In April 1986, the questionnaire was revised following the extension of the definition of employed persons to include persons who worked without pay between 1-14 hours per week in a family business or on a farm (i.e. contributing family workers). This definition aligned the Australian labour force concepts with the set of definitions adopted by the 13th International Conference of Labour Statisticians in October 1982.

23 Previously, contributing family workers who worked 1-14 hours, or who had such a job but were not at work, were defined as either unemployed or not in the labour force, depending on whether they were actively looking for work. In order to assist users to assess the impact of the change, estimates for March 1986 based on the new definition were shown in footnotes to tables 1 and 2 of the February, March and April 1987 issues of this publication.


24 As a result of changes in coding methods, estimates classified by industry, occupation and status in employment data from February 2000 onwards are not strictly comparable with earlier periods. For details on the changes to industry and occupation refer to the article in the November 1999 issue of this publication. For details of the change to status in employment see the article in the May 2000 issue of this publication.

25 The ABS introduced telephone interviewing into the Labour Force Survey in August 1996. Implementation was phased in for each new sample group from August 1996 to February 1997. During this period of implementation, the new method produced different estimates than would have been obtained under the old methodology. The effect dissipated over the final months of implementation and was no longer discernible from February 1997. The estimates for February 1997 and onwards are directly comparable to estimates for periods prior to August 1996. For further details, see the feature article in the June 1997 issue of Labour Force, Australia (Cat. no. 6203.0).

26 From December 1989 onwards, the category Other families was split into One-parent families and Other families. In March 1994, Relationship in household and Family type classifications were introduced to align with ABS standards. From April 2001, same sex couples are included in couple families; previously these persons were included in One-parent families or as a Non-family member.

27 Estimates of the number of families in this publication are not strictly comparable with those in publications prior to the April 1986 issue. This is due to the adoption of a weighting procedure where the weight for a family is determined using an average of the weights for all family members responding to the Labour Force Survey. Previously, the weight used to derive estimates of the number of families was determined by nomination of a proxy ‘head of household’ as representative of the family. Additional tables were included in the April 1986 issue of this publication to show the impact of this new procedure.


28 Following each Population Census, the ABS reselects the Labour Force Survey sample to take into account the new information which is obtained from the Census. The sample that was used in the Labour Force Survey from September 1992 to August 1997 has been replaced by a new sample selected using information collected in the 1996 Census. The new sample was phased in over the period September 1997 to April 1998. For additional information, see Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design (6269.0).

29 The sampling fractions for each State/Territory differ in order to yield reliable estimates of the main labour force aggregates for each State and Territory. The sampling fractions for the current sample together with the sampling fractions determined from the 1991 Census are:

1991 Census
1996 Census

New South Wales
1 in 277
1 in 300
1 in 242
1 in 257
1 in 195
1 in 222
1 in 139
1 in 147
Western Australia
1 in 146
1 in 160
1 in 75
1 in 83
1 in 75
1 in 85
Australian Capital Territory
1 in 75
1 in 85


30 Estimates in this publication are subject to two sources of error:
  • sampling error: since the estimates are based on information obtained from occupants of a sample of dwellings they, and the movements derived from them, may differ from the figures that would have been produced if all dwellings had been included in the survey. More information on this topic is given in the Technical Notes; and
  • non-sampling error: inaccuracies may occur because of imperfections in reporting by respondents and interviewers and errors made in coding and processing data. These inaccuracies may occur in any enumeration, whether it be a full count or a sample. Every effort is made to reduce the non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers and efficient operating procedures.


31 The results of the 1996 Census of Population and Housing show that labour force estimates derived from the Census differ from those derived from the Labour Force Survey.

32 The broad concepts underlying the measures of the labour force and its components, employment and unemployment, are similar in the Census and the survey.

33 There are considerable differences in both the collection methodology adopted (including the detailed questions asked) and estimation procedures. Factors contributing to differences in estimates include under-enumeration in the Population Census for which census labour force estimates have not been adjusted, the use in the Labour Force Survey of population benchmarks derived from incomplete information about population change (see paragraph 13), the inclusion of permanent defence forces in census estimates, the personal interview approach adopted in the survey as opposed to self-enumeration of census schedules, differing questions used to determine labour force characteristics, and differing methods of adjustment for non-response to the survey or Census.

34 The Labour Force Survey provides detailed and up-to-date estimates of employment and unemployment for Australia, States and regions, whereas the Census of Population and Housing provides counts for small areas but in less detail than is available from the survey.

35 These considerations should be borne in mind when comparisons are made between Population Census and Labour Force Survey estimates.


36 Seasonally adjusted series are published in tables 2, 8 and 24. Seasonal adjustment is a means of removing the estimated effects of normal seasonal variation from the series so that the effects of other influences on the series can be recognised more clearly. Seasonal adjustment does not remove the irregular or non-seasonal influences which may be present in any particular month. This means that month-to-month movements of the seasonally adjusted estimates may not be reliable indicators of trend behaviour. For example, irregular factors unrelated to the trend account for more than half the seasonally adjusted movement in series at the Australia level, with the following frequency:

Monthly movements

6 in 10
8 in 10
Unemployment rate
8 in 10
Participation rate
9 in 10

37 Seasonal factors are reviewed annually to take account of each additional year’s original data. The results of the latest annual review were used to compile the seasonally adjusted and trend estimates given in this publication. Information about the most recent annual review of seasonal factors was published in a feature article in the February 2002 issue of this publication.


38 Smoothing seasonally adjusted series produces a measure of trend by reducing the impact of the irregular component of the series. The monthly trend estimates are derived by applying a 13-term Henderson-weighted moving average to all months except the last six. The last six monthly trend estimates are obtained by applying surrogates of the Henderson average to the seasonally adjusted series. Quarterly trend estimates (e.g. employment by industry) are derived by applying a 7-term Henderson moving average to the seasonally adjusted series. The 7-term Henderson average also uses surrogate forms of the average as the end of a time series is approached. Unlike the surrogate weights of the 13-term Henderson used on monthly data, the weights employed here are tailored to suit the particular characteristics of individual series. These trend series are used to analyse the underlying behaviour of the series over time. Trend series graphs are shown on pages 4 to 7 with the trend series published in tables 3, 9 and 24.
Long term data are available on the ABS on-line data dissemination service, AusStats.

39 While this smoothing technique enables estimates to be produced which include the latest month, it does result in revisions to the most recent months as additional observations become available. Generally, subsequent revisions become smaller, and after three months or two quarters have a negligible impact on the series. There will also be revisions as a result of the annual review of seasonal factors mentioned above in paragraph 37.

40 Trend estimates for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are published in table 9. Original estimates for the two Territories have shown, historically, a high degree of variability, which can lead to considerable revisions to the seasonally adjusted estimates after each annual seasonal factor re-analysis. Seasonally adjusted estimates are not currently published for the two Territories. The most recent six months trend estimates are subject to revision. For the three most recent months, the revision may be relatively large. Inferences about trends drawn from smoothed seasonally adjusted (trend) estimates for months earlier than the latest three months are unlikely to be affected by month-to-month revisions. They may, however, be revised as a result of the annual re-analysis of seasonal factors.

41 Users may wish to refer to the ABS publication A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring ‘Trends’ an Overview (1348.0) for further information about trend estimates. Details of the trend weighting patterns are available on request from the Assistant Director, Time Series Analysis on Canberra 02 6252 6345.


42 Care should be taken in the interpretation of month-to-month movements in these estimates. Survey estimates are subject to sampling and non-sampling variability as explained in paragraph 30.


43 In order to minimise respondent load and at the same time maintain continuity within the population survey sample, one-eighth of the dwellings are replaced after each survey. Adoption of this rotation procedure, whereby about seven-eighths of the sample remains unchanged from one month to the next, enables more reliable measurements of changes in the labour force characteristics of the population to be made than would be possible if a new sample were introduced each month.

44 Because a high proportion of private dwellings selected in one survey remains in the sample for the following survey, it is possible to match the characteristics of most of the persons in those dwellings from one month to the next, to record any changes that occur, and hence to produce estimates of flows between the different categories of the population and labour force.

45 The procedures used to select persons in non-private dwellings preclude the possibility of matching any of them who may be included in successive surveys. The mobility of the population and non-response in either or both surveys means that about 10% of persons in private dwellings which are included in the sample in successive months cannot be matched. The introduction of the new sample means less persons will be common between August, September and October 1997. Normally those who can be matched represent about 80% of all persons in the survey.

46 Changes in the characteristics of this latter group are shown in the gross flows table (table 28). About two-thirds of the remaining (unmatched) 20% of persons in the survey are likely to have characteristics similar to those in the matched group, but the characteristics of the other third are likely to be somewhat different.

47 Gross flow estimates relate only to those persons in private dwellings for whom information was obtained in successive surveys. The expansion factors used in calculating the estimates were those applying to the second of each pair of months. Note that the estimates have not been adjusted to account for the unmatched sample component.

48 Although it is not possible to provide gross flow estimates for all persons in the survey it is considered that the estimates derived from matched records will be a useful guide to the proportions of the movements between categories which underlie the changes in monthly levels. When comparing flows for different periods it is important to take into account the population represented by the matched sample, as shown in the last line of the table.

49 While every effort is made to reduce non-sampling errors to a minimum, any such errors affecting labour force status will tend to accumulate in the gross flow statistics rather than to cancel out. The estimates are also subject to sampling variability, as explained in the Technical Notes. For these reasons the estimates of flows should be used with caution. The standard errors may be obtained from table A of the Technical Notes.


50 As a part of survey procedures, family relationships are determined each month, enabling both the estimation of persons cross-classified by their relationship in the household and the estimation of families. This publication contains tables showing the labour force status and family status of individuals and families classified by family type, number of family members, the labour force status of persons within families, the number of children under 15 present, and the number of dependants present.

51 Because of the survey coverage rules, persons who usually live with other members of their family may, at the time of the survey, be enumerated as not living with all the usual members of their family. This situation is more likely for persons who are enumerated as visitors to other private dwellings or as persons staying in non-private dwellings (hotels, hospitals, etc.). The determination of family structure and family characteristics in such cases is difficult. Thus, survey questions used to determine family relationships are restricted to persons enumerated as usual residents of private dwellings. That is, the following persons are excluded:
  • all persons enumerated in non-private dwellings (including hotels, motels, hospitals and other institutions); and
  • persons enumerated as visitors to (rather than usual residents of) private dwellings.

52 In addition, in those households where it is not possible to obtain information relating to all the usual residents, no family information is recorded. Thus persons living in households which include a member of the permanent defence forces, who is outside the scope of the population survey, are excluded from survey questions used to determine family relationships because family information could not be obtained from each usual resident. Similarly, households which, at the time of the survey, have one or more of their usual residents away for more than six weeks, are excluded from the family relationship questions. This also applies to households from which an incomplete or inadequate questionnaire was obtained for any usual resident in on scope and coverage. A summary of those persons for whom family information is obtained as well as those usual residents of private dwellings for whom complete family information cannot be obtained, and those persons specifically excluded from the family determination pro
cedures is contained in the family tables. Generally, relationship in household is determined for more than 90% of all civilians aged 15 and over.


53 From April 1991, labour force birthplace data are aggregated according to major groups of the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC) (1269.0) and its predecessor. The SACC was developed by the ABS for use whenever demographic, labour and social statistics are classified by countries.

54 The SACC major groups are based on the concept of geographic proximity. They differ from the country groups presented in this publication prior to April 1991. For example, African countries are now covered by ‘The Middle East and North Africa’ and ‘Africa (excluding North Africa)’, while Asia has been split into ‘Southeast Asia’, ‘Northeast Asia’ and ‘Southern Asia’. Data for selected individual countries will continue to be available in this publication.


55 From August 1994, Labour Force Survey industry data are classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), a detailed description of which appears in ANZSIC 1993 (1292.0). Like the previous Australian Standard Industrial Classification (ASIC), ANZSIC classifies businesses according to their economic activities, in a structure consisting of 4 levels (Division, Subdivision, Group and Class). Labour Force Survey data are coded at the Group level, as was the practice under ASIC.

56 To enable the conversion of historical data from ASIC to ANZSIC for the period November 1984 to May 1994, a concordance was published in the August 1994 issue of this publication and in the Information Paper - Labour Force Survey: Introduction of ANZSIC for Industry Data (Replacement Publication) (6259.0). It has been found that the concordance, which was based on preliminary investigations, did not provide the most appropriate conversion for certain Group level industries. An improved concordance has now been applied to historical Labour Force Survey estimates. This concordance was published in an appendix to the May 1996 issue of this publication, and in a further issue of the above Information Paper. For further information about the new concordance or the availability of data, contact Narrisa Gilbert on Canberra 02 6252 5283.


57 From August 1996, Labour Force Survey occupation data are classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO) Second Edition, a detailed description of which appears in ASCO - Australian Standard Classification of Occupations, Second Edition (1220.0). The new version of the classification replaces ASCO First Edition, which was adopted in the survey in August 1986. Like ASCO First Edition, ASCO Second Edition is a skill-based classification of occupation. However, the structure of ASCO Second Edition comprises five hierarchical levels (Major Group, Sub-Major Group, Minor Group, Unit Group and Occupation) compared with four levels in ASCO First Edition (Major Group, Minor Group, Unit Group and Occupation). Under ASCO Second Edition, Labour Force Survey data are coded to the Unit Group level, as was the practice under ASCO First Edition.


58 Some information is collected in the Labour Force Survey only four months each year in February, May, August, November. For these months, additional tables are included in this publication which present data for:
  • employed persons classified by industry, occupation and status in employment;
  • part-time workers' preference to work more hours; and
  • the last job details of unemployed persons.


59 Users may also wish to refer to the following publications which relate to the labour force and are available on request:

Labour Force, Australia, Preliminary (6202.0) - issued monthly

Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (Cat. no. 6102.0)

Labour Force, Teenage Employment and Unemployment, Australia, Preliminary - Data Report (6202.0.40.001) - issued monthly

Labour Force, Selected Summary Tables, Australia (6291.0.40.001) - issued monthly

Labour Force, Australia, 1978 - 1995 (6204.0)

Labour Force Projections, Australia: 1999 to 2016 (6260.0)

Labour Force, New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory (6201.1) - issued quarterly

Labour Force, Victoria (6202.2) - issued quarterly

Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families, Australia (6224.0) - issued annually

Wage and Salary Earners, Australia (6248.0) - issued quarterly

Information Paper: Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey (6232.0)

Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design (6269.0)

Information Paper: Regional Labour Force Statistics (6262.0)

Information Paper: Implementing the Redesigned Labour Force Survey Questionnaire (6295.0)

A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring “Trends” An Overview (1348.0)

Labour Force Survey: Introduction of ANZSIC for Industry data (Replacement publication) (6259.0)

Directory of Labour Market and Social Survey Data (Choosing data from the ABS Household Survey Program) (1135.0).

60 Current publications produced by the ABS are listed in the Catalogue of Publications and Products, Australia (Cat. no. 1101.0). The ABS also issues, on Tuesdays and Fridays, a Release Advice (Cat. no. 1105.0) which lists publications to be released in the next few days. The Catalogue and Release Advice are available from any ABS office.


61 As well as statistics included in this publication, the ABS may have other relevant data available. Inquiries should be made to Narissa Gilbert on Canberra 02 6252 5283 or any ABS office.


62 Estimates have been rounded and discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.


*subject to sampling variability too high for most practical uses. See paragraph 7 of the Technical Notes
n.a.not available
. .not applicable
n.e.c.not elsewhere classified

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