Employment estimates from the Economic Activity Survey and the Labour Force Survey are not consistent as these collections differ in purpose, scope, concept and methodology. The more important of these differences for the manufacturing industry are summarised below.
Differences in purpose
The purpose of Labour Force Survey is to provide timely information on the labour market activity of the usually resident civilian population of Australia aged 15 and over. The purpose of the Economic Activity survey is to provide key measures of the performance of the Australian industries including manufacturing. Due to these different purposes, the surveys have different concepts, scopes and collection methods.
Differences in concept, scope and coverage
The Labour Force Survey was developed under a conceptual framework aligning closely with the standards and guidelines set out in Resolutions of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians. In this framework, the labour force is conceptually equivalent to the labour supply available for the production of economic goods and services in a given period. Employment is one of the measures of the economic activity of the population. For providing this and other measures of economic activity of the labour force, the Labour Force Survey was developed as a survey of households i.e. private and non-private (hotels, motels, institutions) dwellings. In this survey, employed persons are defined as all persons 15 years of age and over, who, during the reference week work either,
a) one hour or more with some form of pay (including commission, tips, pay in kind); or
b) one hour or more without pay in a family business or a farm; or
c) were employees but were not at work; or
d) were employers or own-account workers, who had a job, business or farm, but were not at work
Excluded from this survey are members of the permanent defence forces, diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, persons who are usually resident in other countries and are temporarily residing in Australia, and non-Australian defence personnel (and their dependents) stationed in Australia. Hence, the scope of the Labour Force Survey includes all employed persons comprising employers, self-employed persons, unpaid helpers in family businesses and employees in private households, as well as wage and salary earners.
The Economic Activity Survey is a survey of businesses. The concept of employment in this survey is narrower than the concept used in the Labour Force Survey. Estimates from the Economic Activity Survey relate to jobs involving paid employment. Hence, persons holding jobs with different employers would be counted in the Labour Force Survey as employed once, but in the Economic Activity Survey would be counted once for each job held.
The Economic Activity Survey excludes jobs involving paid employment that do not appear on business payrolls such as jobs that are paid in kind only, and jobs from which occupants are absent without pay (for a lengthy period). Hence, directors who are not paid a salary and self-employed persons such as contractors, owners/drivers, consultants and persons paid solely by commission without a retainer are excluded. These categories of the labour force are included in the Labour Force Survey and their inclusion is the main reason for the higher employment estimates in that Survey.
Survey reference periods
The Labour Force Survey is generally conducted during the two weeks beginning on the Monday between 6th and 12th of each month. The information obtained relates to the week before the interview and therefore spans a period roughly corresponding to the first two weeks of each month. Employed persons by industry is only collected and published for February, May, August and November each year.
The Economic Activity Survey obtains information on the number of persons working for the business during the last pay period ending in June of each year.
There are considerable differences in both the collection methodology adopted and estimation procedures. Factors contributing to differences in estimates include; the personal interview approach adopted in the Labour Force Survey as opposed to mail approach used by the Economic Activity Survey; different effects of sampling; and different estimation procedures.
How should estimates from these survey be used
The statistical series from the Labour Force Survey and the Economic Activity Survey should be viewed as complementary rather than alternative or competing series. The Labour Force Survey is very timely and responsive to changes in the business cycle. Its series therefore provide a better indicator of overall employment movements at the Australian and the state/territory levels. Information about the characteristics of the labour force such as sex, age profile or birth place are available by state/territory and by ANZSIC subdivision.
By including working proprietors and partners, the Economic Activity Survey provides an estimate of employment in the industry. Estimates of employment are available by state/territory. They are also available by more detailed industries than the Labour Force Survey and can be analysed in relation to the industry's performance.
More information about the differences can be found in the publication Labour Statistics, Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0).
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This page first published 25 October 2005, last updated 29 August 2012