1 This publication contains estimates of the civilian labour force derived from the Labour Force Survey component of the Monthly Population Survey. The full time series for estimates from this publication are also available electronically. More detailed estimates are released one week after this publication in various electronic formats - see Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 6291.0.55.001) and Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003).
CONCEPTS, SOURCES AND METHODS
2 The conceptual framework used in Australia’s Labour Force Survey aligns closely with the standards and guidelines set out in Resolutions of International Conferences 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. 6102.0.55.001) which is available on the ABS website <http://www.abs.gov.au>.
LABOUR FORCE SURVEY
3 The Labour Force Survey is based on a multi-stage area sample of private dwellings (currently approximately 29,000 houses, flats, etc.) and a list sample of non-private dwellings (hotels, motels, etc.), and covers approximately 0.33% of the civilian population of Australia aged 15 years and over.
4 Information is obtained from the occupants of selected dwellings by specially trained interviewers using computer-assisted interviewing, or self-completion online.
5 Households selected for the Labour Force Survey are interviewed each month for eight months, with one-eighth of the sample being replaced each month. The first interview is generally conducted face-to-face. Subsequent interviews are conducted by telephone (if acceptable to the respondent).
6 From December 2012 to April 2013, the ABS conducted a trial of online electronic data collection. Respondents in one rotation group (i.e. one-eighth of the survey sample) were offered the option of self completing their labour force survey questionnaire online instead of via a face-to-face or telephone interview. From May 2013, the ABS has commenced the expansion of the offer of online electronic collection to each new incoming rotation group. For more information see the article in the April 2013 issue of this publication.
7 The interviews are generally conducted during the two weeks beginning on the Sunday between the 5th and 11th of each month. The information obtained relates to the week before the interview (i.e. the reference week). 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. As a result, January interviewing may commence as early as the 7th or as late as the 13th, depending on the year. Occasionally, circumstances that present significant operational difficulties for survey collection can result in a change to the normal pattern for the start of interviewing.
8 Estimates from the Labour Force Survey are usually published first in this publication 32 days after the commencement of interviews for that month, with the exception of estimates for each December which are usually published 39 days after the commencement of interviews.
SCOPE OF SURVEY
9 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.
10 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 coverage rules are necessarily a balance between theoretical and operational considerations. Nevertheless, the chance of a person being enumerated at two separate dwellings in the survey is considered to be negligible.
11 The Labour Force Survey estimates are calculated in such a way as to add to independent estimates of the civilian population aged 15 years and over (population benchmarks). These population benchmarks are based on the most recently released estimates of Final and Preliminary quarterly Estimated Resident Population (ERP). For information on the methodology used to produce the ERP see Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0). Since the most recently released ERP estimates lag the current time period for Labour Force estimates by nine months, the Labour Force population benchmarks are created by projecting forward three quarters past the most recently released quarterly ERP estimates. The projection is based on the historical pattern of each population component - births, deaths, interstate migration and net overseas migration (NOM). Projected estimates of NOM are supplemented with other data sources to better forecast population changes in the short-term. The main data source is the forecasts published by the Department of Immigration & Citizenship in the publication The Outlook for Net Overseas Migration.
12 Commencing in March 2010, the ERP series has been revised twice-yearly, in the March and September quarter issues of Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0). This biannual revision cycle incorporates more up to date information available for NOM. From November 2012, each biannual revision to ERP estimates have been used to update the population benchmarks used in creating the Labour Force Survey estimates, usually resulting in revisions to approximately the last two years of the historical time series.
13 Every five years, the ERP series are revised to incorporate additional information available from the latest Census of Population and Housing (Census). Labour Force Survey population benchmarks, and the estimates, are revised following this five-yearly revision in the ERP. The process of incorporating the revised population benchmarks is referred to as 'rebasing'. From the February 2009 issue of this publication, labour force estimates have been compiled using population benchmarks based on the results of the 2006 Census. Revisions were made in the February 2009 issue to historical Labour Force estimates from June 2001 to January 2009. The next rebasing based on the Census will be following the release of the 2011 Census-based ERP estimates, which will incorporate revisions back 20 years to 1991, the same revision period selected for revisions to historical ERP. This revision will be released in the January 2014 issue of this publication. For more information on revised ERP estimates, refer to the June 2012 issue of Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0) released in December 2012.
14 In between Censuses, the ABS revises the Labour Force population benchmarks using the latest ERP according to the paragraphs above. These were introduced in the July 2010, November 2012 and April 2013 issues and the next update will be introduced in the October 2013 issue. From the April 2014 issue, after the Census rebasing has been published in the January 2014 issue, rebenchmarking will be undertaken quarterly in the April, July, October and January issues. For more information, refer to the article Rebenchmarking of Labour Force Series in the November 2012 issue of this publication.
15 The estimation method used in the Labour Force Survey is Composite Estimation, which was introduced in May 2007. Composite Estimation combines data collected in the previous six months with current month's data to produce the current month's estimates, thereby exploiting the high correlation between overlapping samples across months in the Labour Force Survey. The Composite Estimator combines the previous and current month's data by applying different factors according to length of time in the survey. After these factors are applied, the seven months of data are weighted to align with current month population benchmarks. For details see Information Paper: Forthcoming Changes to Labour Force Statistics, 2007 (cat. no. 6292.0).
COMPARABILITY OF SERIES
16 From April 1986, the definition of employed persons was changed to include persons who worked without pay between 1 and 14 hours per week in a family business or on a farm (i.e. contributing family workers). For further information, see paragraphs 22 and 23 of the Explanatory Notes in the February 2003 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6203.0).
17 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 the 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).
18 From April 2001 the Labour Force Survey has been conducted using a redesigned questionnaire containing additional data items and some minor definitional changes. The definition of unemployed persons was changed to include all persons who were waiting to start work and were available to start in the reference week. This change was introduced in February 2004, when historical unit record data were revised from April 2001 to January 2004. This revision created a small trend break at April 2001 in unemployed persons and unemployment rate series. For further details, see Information Paper: Forthcoming Changes to Labour Force Statistics (cat. no. 6292.0), released in December 2003.
19 Core labour force series were revised in April 2001 for the period April 1986 to March 2001 for the remaining definitional changes introduced with the redesigned questionnaire, to reduce the impact of the changes on labour force series. For further details, see Information Paper: Implementing the Redesigned Labour Force Survey Questionnaire (cat. no. 6295.0) and Information Paper: Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey (cat. no. 6232.0).
20 In May 2007, an improved method of estimation, known as composite estimation, was introduced into the Labour Force Survey. In introducing this change, the ABS revised unit record data from April 2001 to April 2007 based on the new estimation method. While estimates for periods prior to April 2001 are unrevised and were compiled using a different estimation method, no trend break was identified in the employed persons series. Also, no change was identified in the trend breaks in the unemployed persons and unemployment rate series which arose with the introduction of a redesigned survey form in April 2001 (as noted above in paragraph 19). For further details, see Information Paper: Forthcoming Changes to Labour Force Statistics, 2007 (cat. no. 6292.0).
LABOUR FORCE SURVEY SAMPLE
21 The current Labour Force Survey sample has been selected using information collected in the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
22 The majority of this sample was phased in over the period November 2007 to June 2008, with one-eighth of this portion of the sample being introduced every month. Such a pattern of implementation means that any changes to labour force estimates due to differences between the two samples, or any other influences, were spread over the eight months. The remainder of the sample (about 20% of the total), which covers less settled areas and non-private dwellings was rotated in full for New South Wales, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory in March 2008, and for Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania in April 2008.
23 As one of a range of ABS savings initiatives for the 2008-09 financial year, there was a 24% reduction in the LFS sample size for the period July 2008 to August 2009, relative to the June 2008 sample size. The sample reduction was reversed from September 2009 to December 2009, with December 2009 estimates being the first produced under the fully reinstated sample.
24 A new Labour Force Survey sample, based on the 2011 Census of Population and Housing, is being introduced over four months - May 2013 to August 2013. Two rotation groups (i.e. one-quarter of the survey sample) will be introduced each month. The increased sample rotation will have an impact on the quality of estimates. Movement standard errors will increase by approximately 10%, representing an increase on the standard error on the Australian monthly change in employment from 27,000 to approximately 29,700 in May. This is an improvement on the 22% increase in movement standard errors reported in Labour Force, Australia, July 2012 (cat. no. 6202.0) because the multipliers used in composite estimation have since been optimised during the phase-in to reduce the impact of the increase in rotation. Due to the use of composite estimation, there will also be a marginal impact on the quality of level estimates. Gross Flows analysis will be impacted by the sample phase-in with between 60% to 70% of the sample available for matching between the current and previous months instead of the usual 80%. After the transition to the new sample, the quality of level and movement estimates will move to the quality designed for under the 2011 sample design and will be of similar quality as the 2006 sample design. For further details, see Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design (cat. no. 6269.0 ) released on 30 May 2013.
RELIABILITY OF ESTIMATES
25 Two types of error are possible in an estimate based on a sample survey: sampling error and non-sampling error.
26 Sampling error occurs because a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed. One measure of the likely difference resulting from not including all dwellings in the survey is given by the standard error. There are about two chances in three that a sample estimate will differ by less than one standard error from the figure that would have been obtained if all dwellings had been included in the survey, and about nineteen chances in twenty that the difference will be less than two standard errors. Standard errors of key estimates for the latest month and of movements since the previous month of these estimates are shown in the standard errors section of this publication. Standard errors for other estimates and other movements may be calculated by using the spreadsheet contained in Labour Force Survey Standard Errors, Data Cube (cat. no. 6298.0.55.001) which is available free of charge on the ABS website <http://www.abs.gov.au>.
27 Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort is made to minimise reporting error by the careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and efficient data processing procedures. Non-sampling error also arises because information cannot be obtained from all persons selected in the survey. The Labour Force Survey receives a high level of co-operation from individuals in selected dwellings, with the average response rate over the last year being 97%. See Glossary for definition of response rate.
SEASONAL ADJUSTMENT AND TREND ESTIMATION
28 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 more clearly recognised. Seasonal adjustment does not aim to 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.
29 The Labour Force Survey uses the concurrent seasonal adjustment method to derive seasonal factors. Concurrent seasonal adjustment uses data up to the current month to estimate seasonal factors for the current and all previous months. This process can result in revisions each month to estimates for earlier periods. However, in most instances, the only noticeable revisions will be to the seasonally adjusted estimates for the previous month and one year prior to the current month.
30 The revision properties of the seasonally adjusted and trend estimates can be improved by the use of Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) modelling. ARIMA modelling relies on the characteristics of the series being analysed to project future period data. The projected values are temporary, intermediate values, that are only used internally to improve the estimation of the seasonal factors. The projected data do not affect the original estimates and are discarded at the end of the seasonal adjustment process. The Labour Force Survey uses an ARIMA model for 95% of the individual time series. The ARIMA model is assessed as part of the annual reanalysis. For further details, see the feature article in the October 2004 issue of Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0).
31 Seasonal adjustment is able to remove the effect of events which occur at the same time in the survey every year. However, there are some events, like holidays, which are not always at the same time in the survey cycle or which are not at the same time across Australia. The effects of these types of events on Labour Force Survey estimates cannot in all cases be removed, because the pattern of their effects cannot be determined. However, two events for which adjustment is made in the seasonally adjusted series are the January interview start date and the timing of Easter. For further details, see Information Paper: Forthcoming Changes to Labour Force Statistics (cat. no. 6292.0) released in December 2003.
32 While seasonal factors for the complete time series are estimated each month, they will continue to be reviewed annually at a more detailed level to take into account each additional year's original data. This annual review will not normally result in significant changes to published estimates. The next review is scheduled to be released with the January 2014 issue of this publication, to coincide with the 20 year rebasing of the labour force estimates.
33 The smoothing of seasonally adjusted series to produce 'trend' series reduces the impact of the irregular component of the seasonally adjusted series. These 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. Trend estimates are used to analyse the underlying behaviour of a series over time.
34 While this smoothing technique enables estimates to be produced for the latest month, it does result in revisions in addition to those caused by the revision of seasonally adjusted estimates. Generally, revisions due to the use of surrogates of the Henderson average become smaller, and after three months have a negligible impact on the series.
35 Trend estimates are published for the Northern Territory in table 10 and for the Australian Capital Territory in table 11. Unadjusted series for the two Territories have shown, historically, a high degree of variability, which can lead to considerable revisions to the seasonally adjusted estimates each month when seasonal factors are estimated. For this reason, seasonally adjusted estimates are not currently published for the two Territories. In addition, caution should be exercised in the interpretation of trend estimates for the two Territories, particularly for the three most recent months, where revisions may be relatively large.
36 For further information, see A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring Trends (cat. no. 1349.0) or contact the Assistant Director, Time Series Analysis on (02) 6252 6345 or email
37 Users may also wish to refer to the following publications:
- Labour Force Survey Standard Products and Data Item Guide (cat.no. 6103.0). This publication is a reference guide for users of Labour Force Survey data standard products.
- Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0). This publication presents key indicators of the labour market, articles on a range of labour market issues, and information about the latest developments in the labour statistics program. For further information about this publication, please contact Labour Market Statistics on (02) 6252 7206.
ABS information about the labour market can be found on the Topics @ a Glance page on the ABS website <http://www.abs.gov.au
Information about current publications and other products released by the ABS is available from the statistics page on the ABS website. The ABS also issues a daily release advice on the website, Upcoming Product Releases, which details products to be released in the week ahead.
DATA AVAILABLE ON REQUEST
As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, the ABS may have other relevant data available. Inquiries should be made to the Labour Force contact officer on (02) 6252 6525, email email@example.com or to any ABS office.
EFFECTS OF ROUNDING
Estimates have been rounded and discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals. Estimates of movement shown in this publication are obtained by taking the difference of unrounded estimates. The movement estimate is then rounded. Where a discrepancy occurs between the reported movement and the difference of the rounded estimates, the reported movement will be more accurate.
SYMBOLS AND ABBREVIATIONS
SYMBOLS AND ABBREVIATIONS
|Symbol ||Definition |
|'000 ||thousands |
|% ||percentage |
|ABS ||Australian Bureau of Statistics |
|CAI ||computer assisted interviewing |
|cat. no. ||catalogue number |
|ERP ||estimated resident population |
|f/t ||full time |
|LFS ||Labour Force Survey |
|p/t ||part time |
|pts ||percentage points |
|Seas adj. ||seasonally adjusted |
|TAFE ||Technical and Further Education |
This page last updated 12 June 2013