6105.0 - Australian Labour Market Statistics, July 2014  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/07/2014   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All  
Contents >> Labour Statistics News


Changes to Labour Force Statistics
Revision to Active Job Search Steps
Changes to ABS Labour Supplementary Surveys
Rebenchmarking Labour Force Statistics to the 2011 Census of Population and Housing
Review of Industrial Disputes Statistics


Changes to Labour Force Statistics will be implemented from July 2014. These changes have arisen from the ABS review in 2010-11 of content included in the labour household survey program, as described in the Information Paper: Outcomes of the Labour Household Surveys Content Review, 2012 (cat. no. 6107.0).

A range of improvements and other changes to Labour Force Statistics are being implemented, arising from four drivers:

  • improved (new or more frequent) content, including volume measures of labour underutilisation, retrenchment, education, leave entitlements, sector, number of jobs and underemployment;
  • changes to classifications and standards, including revision to active job search steps (see below), duration of unemployment/job search, status in employment, age categories, and hours worked categories;
  • removal of obsolete data items, e.g. duration of unemployment since last full-time job; and
  • rationalisation of data outputs and other changes.

These changes commence from July 2014 in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) and related products, although new items will be released from January 2015. Information on the full range of changes to outputs, including timing of implementation, is provided in the Information Paper: Forthcoming Changes to Labour Force Statistics, 2014 (cat. no. 6292.0), released on 26 June 2014.


From July 2014 the ABS will change some of the job search steps in the Labour Force Survey (LFS) to better reflect the nature of job search practices in Australia and to better align with international standards. This note outlines the current practice, what the changes are and the reasons for the changes. The impact on the estimates of the unemployed population are not expected to be statistically significant.

In accordance with international standards the ABS includes an 'active' job search criteria to define the unemployed population in the LFS. 'Active' job search steps are those which put a person in contact with prospective employers for work, either directly or through intermediaries (such as employment services, agencies or recruiting firms), or represent steps towards 'self-employment'. See the Glossary of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) for the list of current active job search steps. People who only looked in newspapers or read job advertisements on the internet are not considered actively looking for work, as it is impossible to obtain work without some additional active job search step (for example, contacting the employer).

To maintain consistency in the underlying concept of active job search over time, it is necessary to periodically review the steps which are considered active to reflect current and emerging practices in the labour market. For example, in July 2011 looking on the internet was added to looking in newspapers as a passive job search step and reference to Centrelink touch screens was removed.

What changes are occurring?

Changes to the job search steps will be made to the LFS questionnaire from July 2014. These changes aim to more accurately reflect the role of Centrelink in relation to job seekers, to provide greater consistency of treatment of certain job search steps, and to include logical job search steps that are currently not included.

Two new active job search steps will be included in the survey:
  • 'had an interview with an employer for work' and
  • 'taken steps to purchase or start your own business'.

Having an interview with an employer is a logical step in the process of getting a job, and given that it may take some time for people to be offered a job after applying (during which time they may attend an interview), including this as an active job search step means that people who are in the process of being considered for a job will not necessarily change from being classified as unemployed to not in the labour force if there are time lags between applying for, being interviewed for and being offered a job.

The previous suite of job search steps did not consider steps taken to start or purchase a business as an active job search step. Activities such as applying for an Australian Business Number or licences, or seeking finance to establish or purchase a business, or obtaining premises or equipment, are considered job search activities for people who are looking to be 'self-employed', i.e. working in their own business. The recognition of these as active job search steps was agreed to at the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, in October 2013, where the standards for work, employment and labour underutilisation were revised.

In addition, two steps which are currently 'active' steps will no longer be considered sufficient for the respondent to be classified as actively looking for work. These are 'checked notice boards' and 'been registered with Centrelink as a jobseeker'.

Currently, the step 'looking in newspapers or on the internet' is not an active job search step, as without taking further steps (such as responding to an advertisement or applying to an employer for a job) a prospective employer would not be made aware that the person was looking for work. Checking notice boards is not conceptually different from checking in newspapers or on the internet, so should be treated in the same way (as not an active job search step), and will be rolled into the current response 'looking in newspapers or on the internet'.

The role of Centrelink in relation to job seekers has changed over time. The core function of Centrelink in relation to job seekers is in the administration of income support, rather than directly supporting job search activities. While registering with Centrelink as a job seeker is a necessary step in order to receive government income support, it is not a step relating to actual job search. Job seekers would need to take active job search steps, in order to be considered actively looking for work.

As outlined in the Information Paper: Outcomes of the Labour Household Surveys Content Review, 2012 (cat. no. 6107.0), in addition to the changes to the LFS (described above) the ABS is rationalising the labour supplementary survey program into two supplementary surveys in August (Characteristics of Employment) and February (Participation, Job Search and Mobility).

Characteristics of Employment (COE) supplementary survey

The new COE supplementary survey will integrate key elements of the Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership (EEBTUM) survey and the Forms of Employment (FOE) survey (including the Working Time Arrangements and Labour Hire modules).

The supplementary survey will describe the key features of people's employment and inform users on the following labour market issues:
  • earnings - in main job and second job;
  • employment arrangements;
  • independent contracting;
  • fixed-term employment;
  • trade union membership;
  • labour hire;
  • working patterns;
  • job stability;
  • job flexibility; and
  • overwork.

Including this data in a single survey will enable analysis of the key elements of people's employment and related outcomes. While the EEBTUM and FOE surveys have each collected information describing people's employment, each only provided a partial picture of people's employment and related outcomes. As the COE survey will be conducted as a supplement to the LFS in August each year, the items collected each quarter in the LFS will be included on the dataset and incorporated in survey output where appropriate.

With additional content added to the monthly and quarterly LFS it has been necessary to reduce the content in COE compared to the previous labour supplementary survey program. Data items with a relatively lower priority compared to others will cease being collected in the labour supplementary survey program.

To minimise respondent burden and enable the planned content to fit within the available resources for the survey, the COE supplementary survey will comprise a core annual component and two components included every two years on a rotating basis. This approach also reflects that some data items do not change significantly from year to year.

The core component will contain information on earnings (weekly and hourly earnings in main job and second job), fixed term employment and independent contracting. The first of the two rotating components will contain information on trade union membership, labour hire, job stability and more detail on independent contracting. The second of the two rotating components will contain information on overwork, job flexibility and working patterns.

Further details, including data items lists, are available in Appendix 3 of the August 2013 issue of Employee Earnings, Benefits, and Trade Union Membership (cat. no. 6310.0).

Participation, Job Search and Mobility supplementary survey
The other labour supplementary survey to be conducted annually each February from 2015 will integrate the key elements of the Labour Mobility, Job Search Experience (JSE), Underemployed Workers (UEW) and Persons Not in the Labour Force (PNILF) surveys into a single survey - Participation, Job Search and Mobility. The supplementary survey will inform users on the following broad labour market issues:
  • job mobility;
  • job search;
  • participation and increasing participation;
  • underemployment; and
  • marginal attachment.

Including this range of topics into a single survey will enable analysis of people’s experiences relating to job search, job change and increasing participation. While the JSE, UEW, PNILF and Labour Mobility surveys have all collected information describing people’s transitions within and out of the labour force, each only provided a partial picture of labour force participation and related outcomes.

While the content of the Participation, Job Search and Labour Mobility supplementary survey will largely be based on existing content, some changes will be made to better inform on important issues. In particular, the survey will:
  • expand information collected on job search (and job churn), by adding to information already collected on job search by the unemployed, by asking whether employed people looked for a job (and if so, the steps taken) and asking those not in the labour force who looked for work the steps they took;
  • provide more comprehensive information on geographic mobility, by broadening the scope of the data items on whether people would be prepared to move interstate or intrastate for a job from the underemployed to the unemployed, employed and people not in the labour force who want to work.

The ABS has re-organised the content of the survey to contain a core annual component, comprising around two-thirds of the overall content, with the remaining content included every two years on a rotating basis (a similar approach to the COE survey). This has been necessary to accommodate the planned content into the available resources.

The core component will contain content on job search, participation, underemployment and key labour mobility measures. The first of the two rotating components will contain more detailed content on labour mobility, and previous job details. The second of the two rotating components will contain more detailed content on job search, and participation.

The content of this survey is still being finalised. Details of these changes, when finalised, will be advised in Persons not in the labour force, Underemployed workers and Job search experience, February 2014 (cat. no. 6226.55.001) to be released in December 2014.


Data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) on persons employed, unemployed and not in the labour force are calculated so as to add to independent population benchmarks for age groups, sex and regions. For the labour force estimates, these population benchmarks are based on the Estimated Resident Population (ERP) which reflects counts from the Census of Population and Housing adjusted for under-enumeration, updated for births, deaths, interstate migration and net overseas migration. As labour force estimates cover the civilian population aged 15 years and over, the civilian population aged under 15 years and permanent defence personnel are deducted from ERP to create the labour force population benchmarks.

From January 2014 LFS estimates have been compiled using population benchmarks based on results from the 2011 Census. Additionally, labour force estimates for the period July 1991 to December 2013 were rebenchmarked to the revised population benchmarks. These revisions were introduced concurrently with the introduction of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard.

For more details about the revisions made and the impact on the LFS estimates see the January 2014 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0).


The ABS has conducted a review of the Industrial Disputes statistics. Since the last comprehensive review in 1999 there have been a number of changes to industrial relations legislation and, more generally, the structure of the labour market and nature of working arrangements have also changed considerably. An important element of the review was to understand the contemporary and potential future data requirements of users. The first phase of the review has been completed and the recommendations were discussed at the ABS chaired Labour Statistics Advisory Group on 22 November 2013. The ABS is now investigating the operational impacts of implementing the recommendations. Once the outcomes from the operational phase are finalised, information about any changes to the Industrial Disputes statistics will be communicated to users, primarily through notes in Industrial Disputes, Australia (cat. no. 6231.0.55.001).

If you would like further information about the review, please contact Manpreet Singh on (08) 9360 5916.

Previous PageNext Page