6302.0 - Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, Feb 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/05/2002   
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1 This publication contains estimates of average weekly earnings for February 2002 based on information obtained from a sample survey of employers.


2 All wage and salary earners who received pay for the reference period are represented in the Survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE), except:

  • members of the Australian permanent defence forces;
  • employees of enterprises primarily engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing;
  • employees in private households employing staff;
  • employees of overseas embassies, consulates, etc;
  • employees based outside Australia; and
  • employees on workers’ compensation who are not paid through the payroll.

3 Also excluded are the following persons who are not regarded as employees for the purposes of this survey:
  • casual employees who did not receive pay during the reference period;
  • employees on leave without pay who did not receive pay during the reference period;
  • employees on strike, or stood down, who did not receive pay during the reference period;
  • directors who are not paid a salary;
  • proprietors/partners of unincorporated businesses;
  • self-employed persons such as subcontractors, owner/drivers, consultants ; and
  • persons paid solely by commission without a retainer.

4 The sample for the AWE survey, like most ABS business surveys, is selected from the ABS Business Register which is primarily based on registrations to the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) Pay As You Go Withholding (PAYGW) scheme (and prior to 1 June 2000 the Group Employer (GE) scheme). The population is updated quarterly to take account of:
  • new businesses;
  • businesses which have ceased employing;
  • changes in employment levels;
  • changes in industry; and
  • other general business changes.

The estimates include an allowance for the time it takes newly registered businesses to get on to the survey population.

5 Businesses which have ceased employing are identified when the ATO cancels their PAYGW registration (or previously their GE registration). In addition, from May 1999, businesses which did not remit under the GE scheme for the previous five quarters were removed from the frame. A similar process will be adopted to remove businesses which do not remit under the PAYGW scheme.


6 The introduction of The New Tax System has a number of significant implications for ABS business statistics. These are discussed in the information paper ABS Statistics And The New Tax System (ABS Cat. No. 1358.0). The replacement of the GE registration process by PAYGW registration resulted in a number of changes to the populations for most business surveys. These changes caused a greater than normal rotation of the businesses included in the AWE survey sample between February and May 2001.


7 A sample of approximately 4,700 employer units is selected from the ABS Business Register to ensure adequate State and industry representation. The sample is updated each quarter to reflect changes in the ABS register of businesses. These changes arise from the emergence of new businesses, takeovers and mergers, changes to industry classification, changes in the number of employees, and businesses which have ceased operations. Such updating of the register can contribute to changes in the estimates of average weekly earnings.

8 The statistical unit for the survey comprises all activities of an employer in a particular State or Territory. Each statistical unit is classified to an industry which reflects the predominant activity of the business in the State or Territory. The statistical units are stratified by State, sector, industry, employment size and an equal probability sample is selected from each stratum.

9 Since February 1992, survey data for a number of Commonwealth government and Australian Capital Territory government departments have been collected electronically. From November 1993, survey data for a number of Northern Territory government departments and agencies have also been collected electronically.


10 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.

11 There are several aspects which can contribute to compositional changes, including variations over time in the proportions of full-time, part-time, casual and junior employees; variations in the occupational distribution within and across industries; variations in the distribution of employment between industries; and variations in the proportion of male and female employees. Such effects may apply differently within different States and Territories, and over time.


12 Estimates of average weekly earnings are rounded to the nearest 10 cents.

13 Percentage changes are calculated on the actual values and may differ from calculations based on rounded estimates.


14 The AWE series was introduced in August 1981 when it replaced the average weekly earnings series based principally on information from payroll tax returns. Revised estimates of average weekly earnings for the period August 1981 to November 1983 were included in Average Weekly Earnings, States and Australia, March Quarter 1984 (Cat. no. 6302.0) published on 12 July 1984. Users who need a measure of the movement in earnings for a period which spans both the payroll tax based and employer survey series should refer to Table 3 in that publication which presents both series linked to a common index base (August 1981 = 100.0).


15 Seasonal adjustment is a means of removing the estimated effects of normal seasonal variation from the series so that the effects of other influences 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 series. Influences that are volatile or unsystematic can still make it difficult to interpret the movement of the series even after adjustment for seasonal variation. This means that quarter-to-quarter movements of seasonally adjusted estimates may not be reliable indicators of trend behaviour.

16 The series have been seasonally adjusted from September 1983 and the historical series can be made available on request. The seasonal factors are reviewed annually to take account of each additional year’s original data. The most recent review, using original estimates to November 2001, took place in time for inclusion in the February 2002 estimates.

17 Details about the method of seasonal adjustment of these series are available on request.


18 The ABS considers that trend estimates provide a more reliable guide to the underlying direction of the data, and are more suitable than either the seasonally adjusted or original estimates for most business decisions and policy advice.

19 The trend estimates in this publication, obtained by dampening out the irregular component from the seasonally adjusted series, are calculated using a centred 7-term Henderson moving average of the seasonally adjusted series. Estimates for the three most recent quarters cannot be calculated using this centred average method; instead an asymmetric average is used. This can lead to revisions in the trend estimates for the last three quarters when data become available for later quarters. Revisions of trend estimates will also occur with revisions to the original data and re-estimation of seasonal adjustment factors.

20 If a series is highly volatile then the trend estimates will be subject to greater revision for the latest few quarters as new data become available. However, it is important to note that this does not make the trend series inferior to the seasonally adjusted or original series.

21 For more information, see A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring ‘Trends’: an Overview (Cat. no. 1348.0) or contact the Assistant Director, Time Series Analysis on Canberra 02 6252 6345 or at timeseries@abs.gov.au.

22 Three feature articles which have appeared in the ABS monthly publication Australian Economic Indicators (Cat. no. 1350.0) may also be of interest:
  • Picking Turning Points in the Economy (April 1991)
  • Smarter Data Use (March 1992); and
  • Direct Movement Estimator for the Survey of Average Weekly Earnings (August 1998)


23 Background information about the average weekly earnings series is provided in Information Paper: New Statistical Series: Employment, Average Weekly Earnings, Job Vacancies and Overtime (Cat. no. 6256.0) published 21 June 1984. Copies are available on request.


24 The following publications contain related information and are available from ABS Bookshops:

Average Weekly Earnings, Australia 1941-1990 (Cat. no. 6350.0)

Employee Earnings and Hours, Australia (Cat. no. 6306.0) - issued biennially

Wage Cost Index, Australia (Cat. no. 6345.0) - issued quarterly

Job Vacancies, Australia (Cat. no. 6354.0) - issued quarterly

Information Paper: New Statistical Series: Employment, Average Weekly Earnings, Job Vacancies and Overtime (Cat. no. 6256.0)

Occasional Paper No 1986/1: Statistics on Wages, Earnings, Income and Labour Costs - A Guide to Their Concepts, Measurement and Usage

Labour Statistics - Concepts, Sources and Methods 2001 (Cat. no. 6102.0)

Wage and Salary Earners, Australia (Cat. no. 6248.0) - issued quarterly

Labour Force, Australia (Cat. no. 6203.0) - issued monthly

Labour Force Projections, Australia 1999-2016 (Cat. no. 6260.0)

Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership (Cat. no. 6310.0) - issued annually

25 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 or from the ABS website.


26 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, the ABS may have other relevant data available on request. Details of additional data available are shown in Special Data Service in this publication.