Labour Force statistics are compiled from the Labour Force Survey which is conducted each month throughout Australia as part of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) household survey program. For information on the institutional environment of the ABS, including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.
The Labour Force Survey provides monthly information about the labour market activity of Australia's resident civilian population aged 15 years and over. The Labour Force Survey is designed to primarily provide estimates of employment and unemployment for the whole of Australia and, secondarily, for each state and territory.
The Labour Force Survey enumeration begins on the Sunday between the 5th and 11th of the month, except for the Christmas and New Year holiday period. In December enumerations starts between the 3rd and 9th (4 weeks after November enumeration begins). In January enumeration starts between the 7th and 13th (5 weeks after December enumeration begins).
Key estimates from the Labour Force Survey are published in two stages. The first, Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0), is released 32 days after the commencement of enumeration for the month, with the exception of estimates for December which are published 39 days after the commencement of enumeration.
The second stage, which includes detailed data that were not part of the first stage, are published in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery(cat. no. 6291.0.55.001) and Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly(cat. no. 6291.0.55.003). The second stage is released 7 days after the first stage.
The Labour Force Survey is based on a sample of private dwellings (approximately 22,800 houses, flats etc) and non-private dwellings, such as hotels and motels. The sample covers about 0.24% of the Australian Population. The Labour Force Survey is designed primarily to provide estimates of key labour force statistics for the whole of Australia and, secondarily, for each state and territory.
Two types of error are possible in an estimate based on a sample survey: non-sampling error and sampling error.
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 cooperation, with an average response rate for the last year being 97%.
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 and movements since the previous month are available in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0). The standard error of other estimates and movements may be calculated by using the spreadsheet contained in Labour Force Survey Standard Errors, Data Cube (cat. no. 6298.0.55.001).
The ABS has been conducting the Labour Force Survey each month since February 1978. While seeking to provide a high degree of consistency and comparability over time by minimising changes to the survey, sound survey practice requires careful and continuing maintenance and development to maintain the integrity of the data and the efficiency of the collection.
The changes which have been made to the Labour Force Survey have included changes in sampling methods, estimation methods, concepts, data item definitions, classifications, and time series analysis techniques. In introducing these changes the ABS has generally revised previous estimates to ensure consistency and coherence with current estimates. For a full list of changes made to the Labour Force Survey see Chapter 20 in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001).
The key estimates from the Labour Force Survey are available as original, seasonally adjusted and trend series. Seasonal adjustment is a means of removing the effects of normal seasonal variation from the series so other influences on the series can be more clearly recognised. Seasonal adjustment does not aim to remove the irregular influences which may be present and therefore month-to-month movements may not be reliable indicators of underlying behaviour. To assist in interpreting the underlying behaviour, the ABS produces the trend series by smoothing the seasonally adjusted series to reduce the impact of the irregular component. For further information, see A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring Trends (cat. no. 1349.0).
Further information on the terminology and other technical aspects associated with statistics from the Labour Force Survey can be found in the publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0), which contains detailed Explanatory Notes, Standard Error information and a Glossary.
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