6105.0 - Australian Labour Market Statistics, Apr 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/04/2004   
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1 Australian Labour Market Statistics brings together a range of ABS labour statistics to present a statistical summary of the Australian labour market. It has been developed primarily as a reference document, and provides a broad basis for labour analysis and research.

2 In addition to data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), this publication contains statistics from a range of other ABS labour surveys including Average Weeky Earnings, the Wage Cost Index, Job Vacancies, Employment and Earnings - Public Sector, and Industrial Disputes. The publication also includes summary data from recently released labour force supplementary surveys.

3 This publication also includes international data for selected labour market indicators.

Labour statistics concepts, sources and methods

4 The concepts and definitions underpinning ABS labour statistics align closely with the standards and guidelines set out in Resolutions of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Descriptions of the underlying concepts of Australia's labour market 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 web site at https://www.abs.gov.au (About Statistics - Concepts & Classifications).

5 For an explanation of terms used in this publication, refer to the Glossary.

Labour statistics theme page

6 The Labour Statistics theme page is a portal to all labour statistics and related information residing on the ABS web site. The page contains hyperlinks to Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0); information about labour related surveys including the data items each survey collects and contact details for further assistance; and a help page for respondents to ABS labour related surveys.

Trend estimates

7 Series in this publication include original and trend series. Special care should be taken in interpreting data for the most recent months and quarters, as some of the original and all of the trend series are subject to revision.

8 It is not uncommon for movements in original time series data and those provided from trend series to differ. Movements in a time series of original data may reflect several factors, including:

  • longer-term changes in the item being measured (i.e. trend movements)
  • short-term irregular changes
  • regular seasonal influences
  • normal 'trading', 'working' or 'pay' day patterns
  • systematic holiday effects.

9 Trend estimates help the user to identify the underlying magnitude and direction of a time series. Seasonal adjustment removes the effect of the last three listed influences from the data, leaving only trend and short-term irregular movements. Trend estimates are then obtained by removing the effects of the short-term irregularities, which in some series can be a major contributor to movements in the original data.

10 Trend estimates are produced by smoothing the seasonally adjusted series using a statistical procedure based on Henderson moving averages. At each time point in a series, a trend estimate is calculated using a centred x-term Henderson moving average of the seasonally adjusted series. The moving averages are centred on the point in time at which the trend is being estimated. The number of terms used to calculate the trend varies across surveys. Generally, ABS monthly surveys use a 13-term moving average and quarterly surveys use a 7-term moving average.

11 Estimates for the most recent time points cannot be calculated using the centred average method as there are insufficient data to do so. Instead, alternative approaches that approximate the smoothing properties of the Henderson moving average are used. This can lead to revision in the trend estimates for the most recent time periods until sufficient data are available to calculate the trend using the centred Henderson moving average. Revisions of trend estimates will also occur with revisions to the original data and re-estimation of seasonal adjustment factors.

12 Seasonal factors are reviewed at least annually for ABS labour series, to take account of additional original data. The results of the latest reviews were used to compile the trend estimates given in this publication. For further information about the most recent reviews of seasonal factors for the labour surveys, see the following publications:

13 The general methods used in the ABS for estimating trends are described in Information Paper: A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring Trends (cat. no. 1349.0).

Reliability of estimates

14 Estimates in this publication are subject to two types of error:

  • sampling error - errors that occur because the data were obtained from a sample rather than the entire population
  • non-sampling error - errors that occur at any stage of a survey and can also occur in a census, e.g. incorrect responses to questions, processing errors, frame deficiencies.

15 For more information on these sources of error, and on measures of these types of errors, including standard errors, refer to the main publications associated with each of the data series presented in this publication (see the relevant sections later in these Explanatory Notes). More information on standard errors applying to LFS estimates is contained in Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Standard Errors (cat. no. 6298.0).


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

Labour Force Survey Data

Description of the survey

17 Data in tables 1.1-1.7, 2.1-2.10, 3.1-3.3, 4.3 and 4.4 are obtained from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), which provides extensive information about the labour market on a monthly basis. The LFS is a component of the Monthly Population Survey (MPS), which includes the LFS and supplementary surveys.

Monthly Population Survey

18 The MPS is a population survey based on a multi-stage area sample of private dwellings (currently about 30,000 houses, flats, etc.), and list samples of discrete Indigenous communities and non-private dwellings (hospitals, hotels, motels, etc.), and covers about 0.5% of the population of Australia. The information is obtained from occupants of selected dwellings by interviewers, with the first interview conducted face-to-face and subsequent interviews over the telephone. Once selected, households are included for eight consecutive months before being replaced.

Labour Force Survey

19 The LFS has been conducted on a monthly basis since February 1978. Prior to that, from 1964 to 1978, a national survey was conducted quarterly. Telephone interviewing was introduced between August 1996 and February 1997. New questionnaires have been introduced periodically, most recently in April 2001.

20 The LFS includes all usual residents of Australia aged 15 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
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia.

21 From July 1993, Jervis Bay Territory has been excluded from the scope of the LFS.

Supplementary surveys

22 The supplementary surveys collect additional data on a different topic each month. Many topics covered are rotated on an annual or less frequent basis, while others are included once only. Results from each supplementary survey topic are released separately. A list of topics covered in recent years is in Appendix 3.

23 Tables 4.1 and 4.2 contain data from the annual supplementary surveys Underemployed Workers and Persons Not in the Labour Force. These tables are updated annually.

24 The supplementary surveys include a subset of the persons included in the LFS (see paragraph 20). The additional exclusions for most supplementary surveys are:

  • persons living in private dwellings in remote and sparsely settled parts of Australia
  • institutionalised persons
  • boarding school pupils.

Reference period

25 Interviews are generally conducted during the two weeks beginning on the Monday between the 6th and 12th of each month, with questions relating to the week prior to the interview (the reference week).

Notes on data

26 From time to time, changes to survey methodology affect the time series produced. Some examples of changes to this survey are: the introduction of computer-assisted interviewing in 2003-04; new questions added to the LFS questionnaire in April 2001; and the introduction of telephone interviewing in 1996-97.

27 In February 2004 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, with consequent revisions to data from April 2001 to January 2004. For further details, see Information Paper: Forthcoming Changes to Labour Force Statistics (cat. no. 6292.0).

Population benchmarks

28 LFS estimates of persons employed, unemployed and not in the labour force are calculated in such a way as to add up to independently estimated counts (benchmarks) of the civilian population aged 15 years and over. These benchmarks are based on census data adjusted for under-enumeration and updated for births, deaths, interstate migration, and net permanent and long-term migration. This procedure compensates for under-enumeration in the survey, and leads to more reliable estimates.

29 From February 2004, labour force estimates have been compiled using benchmarks based on the results of the 2001 Census of Population and Housing. Revisions were made to historical estimates from January 1999 to January 2004. These revisions affect original, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates. The next revision is scheduled for February 2009 to take account of the results from the 2006 census.

Families series

30 Family relationship is not determined for all households and persons in scope of the LFS. This is due to a number of factors related to the scope and coverage of the LFS, as well as difficulties in determining family structure and characteristics. The 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)
  • persons enumerated as visitors to (rather than usual residents of) private dwellings.

31 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 LFS, are excluded from survey questions used to determine family relationships. This also applies to households that, at the time of the survey, had one or more of their usual residents away for more than six weeks, and households from which an incomplete or inadequate questionnaire was obtained for any usual resident in scope of the survey.

Further information and data on the LFS

32 LFS estimates are published monthly in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0). A series of time-series spreadsheets are released at the same time as this publication under catalogue number 6202.0.55.001. More detailed estimates are released, in electronic format, one week later, under catalogue number 6291.0.55.001. All electronic data can be accessed via the ABS web site at https://www.abs.gov.au. Additional data are available on request.

33 For further information about the range of LFS products and services, and the concepts and methodology used in the LFS, refer to Information Paper: Changes to Labour Force Survey Products (cat. no. 6297.0), Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0), or contact the Assistant Director, Labour Force Survey on Canberra 02 6252 6565.

Employer Survey Data

34 Tables 2.11, 5.1-5.3, 6.1-6.2 and 7.1 of this publication contain data from ABS employer surveys.

Scope of employer surveys

35 Except where otherwise noted, the ABS labour employer surveys are selected from the ABS Business Register, which is primarily based on registrations to the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) Pay As You Go Withholding scheme. The population is updated quarterly to take account of new businesses, business that have ceased employing, changes in employment levels, changes in industry, and other general business changes. Businesses excluded from the scope of the employer surveys are:

  • those primarily engaged in Agriculture, forestry and fishing (except for the Survey of Employment and Earnings)
  • private households employing staff
  • overseas embassies, consulates, etc.
  • those located outside Australia.

Job Vacancies Data

36 Table 7.1 contains data from the Job Vacancies Survey (JVS).

Description of the survey

37 The current Job Vacancies Survey has been conducted since November 1983 and is a quarterly sample survey of approximately 4,600 employers. The survey produces estimates of the number of job vacancies in Australia.

Reference date

38 The reference date for the survey is the third Friday of the middle month of the quarter.

Notes on data

39 Prior to the August quarter 1999, job vacancies statistics were collected as part of the Job Vacancies and Overtime Survey. The overtime component of the survey ceased following the May quarter 1999.

Further information

40 For further information about the range of products and services relating to ABS job vacancies statistics, and the concepts and methodology used, refer to Job Vacancies, Australia (cat. no. 6354.0), Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0), the associated time series spreadsheets available from the ABS web site, or contact the Manager, Job Vacancies Survey on Perth 08 9360 5304.

Public Sector Employees Data

Description of the survey

41 Data in table 2.11 are obtained from a quarterly survey of public sector businesses: the Survey of Employment and Earnings - Public Sector (SEE). This survey has been conducted on a quarterly basis since the September quarter 1983. The survey measures both the number of public sector wage and salary earners employed in the middle month of each quarter and their total quarterly earnings.

Reference period

42 The reference period for employees is the last pay period ending on or before the third Friday of the middle month of the quarter. The reference period for gross earnings is all pay periods which end within the quarter.

Notes on data

43 The private sector component of the Survey of Employment and Earnings was discontinued after the December quarter 2001.

Further information

44 For further information about the range of products and services relating to public service employees, and the concepts and methodology used, refer to Wage and Salary Earners, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.001), Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0), or contact the Manager, Survey of Employment and Earnings, Public Sector on Perth 08 9360 3141.

Average Weekly Earnings Data

45 Table 5.2 contains data from the Survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE).

Description of the survey

46 The Survey of Average Weekly Earnings has been conducted quarterly since August 1981. Approximately 4,700 businesses contribute to the survey each quarter. The purpose of the survey is to measure average gross weekly earnings per employee job in Australia.

47 Average weekly earnings statistics represent average gross (before tax) earnings of employees and do not relate to average award rates nor to the earnings of the 'average person'. Estimates of average weekly earnings are derived by dividing estimates of weekly total earnings by estimates of number of employees. Changes in the averages may be affected not only by changes in the level of earnings of employees but also by changes in the overall composition of the wage and salary earner segment of the labour force.

Reference period

48 The reference period for the survey is the last pay period ending on or before the third Friday of the middle month of the quarter. For non-weekly payrolls, businesses are asked to provide one week's portion.

Further information

49 For further information about the range of products and services relating to average weekly earnings refer to Average Weekly Earnings, Australia (cat. no. 6302.0), Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0), the associated time series spreadsheets available from the ABS web site, or contact the Manager, Survey of Average Weekly Earnings on Perth 08 9360 5304.

Wage Cost Index Data

50 Table 5.1 contains data from the Wage Cost Index, Australia (cat. no. 6345.0) publication.

Description of the survey

51 The Wage Cost Index (WCI) is a price index which measures changes over time in wage and salary costs for employee jobs, unaffected by changes in the quality or quantity of work performed. Changes in wages and salaries resulting from changes in the composition of the labour market are excluded from the WCI movements. Index numbers have been compiled and published since December quarter 1997 (with a reference base of September quarter 1997 = 100.0). Approximately 19,000 matched jobs from 4,100 qualifying businesses are priced each quarter.

Reference period

52 The reference period for the survey is the last pay period ending on or before the third Friday of the mid-month of the quarter.

Further information

53 For further information about the range of products and services relating to the Wage Cost Index, and the concepts and methodology used, refer to Wage Cost Index, Australia (cat. no. 6345.0), Information Paper: Wage Cost Index, Australia (cat. no. 6346.0), Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0), the associated time series spreadsheets available from the ABS web site, or contact the Labour Price Index Output Group on Perth 08 9360 5151.

Industrial Disputes Data

54 Tables 6.1 and 6.2 contain data from the Industrial Disputes collection.

Description of the survey

55 The ABS has been collecting information about industrial disputes since 1913. The Industrial Disputes collection produces estimates of the number of industrial disputes (where ten or more working days are lost), employees involved, and working days lost.

56 The scope of the Industrial Disputes collection is restricted to employing businesses at which an industrial dispute has occurred. For this collection, industrial disputes are defined as work stoppages of ten working days or more. Ten working days are equivalent to the amount of ordinary time worked by ten people in one day, regardless of the length of the stoppage, e.g. 3,000 workers on strike for two hours would be counted as 750 working days lost (assuming they work an eight-hour day).

57 Effects on other establishments not directly involved in the dispute, such as stand-downs because of lack of materials, disruption of transport services, power cuts, etc. are not included in the scope of this collection.

Reference period

58 The collection reference period is the calendar month. Data on working days lost are collated and published on a quarterly basis in this publication.

Further information

59 For further information about the range of products and services relating to ABS industrial disputes statistics, and the concepts and methodology used, refer to Industrial Disputes, Australia (cat. no. 6321.0), Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0), the associated time series spreadsheets available from the ABS web site, or contact the Manager, Industrial Disputes on Perth 08 9360 5159.

National accounts data

60 Table 5.3 contains data from the Australian National Accounts.

61 Estimates of compensation of employees are contained within the Income Accounts of the Australian National Accounts, which are published in Australian System of National Accounts (cat. no. 5204.0) and Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0). For further information on how estimates are obtained, see Australian System of National Accounts: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 5216.0).

International data

62 Table 1.8 contains data from the International Labour Organisation.

63 Estimates of key indicators of the labour markets from various countries have been included for comparison with Australian estimates of labour force participation, employment, unemployment and unemployment rates.