6202.0 - Labour Force, Australia, Apr 2020 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/05/2020   
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INSIGHTS FROM THE ORIGINAL DATA


SAMPLE COMPOSITION

The Labour Force Survey sample comprises eight sub-samples (or rotation groups), with each sub-sample remaining in the survey for eight months, and one rotation group "rotating out" each month and being replaced by a new group "rotating in". This sample rotation is important in ensuring that seven-eighths of the sample is common from one month to the next, to ensure that changes in the estimates reflect real changes in the labour market, rather than the sample. In addition, the replacement sample is generally selected from the same geographic areas as the outgoing one, as part of a representative sampling approach.

When considering movements in the original estimates, it is possible to decompose the sample into three components:

• the matched common sample (survey respondents who responded in both March and April);

• the unmatched common sample (survey respondents who responded in April but who did not respond in March, or vice versa); and

• the incoming rotation group (survey respondents who replaced respondents who rotated out in March).

The detailed decomposition of each of these movements is included in the data cube 'Insights From the Original Data'.

In considering the three components of the sample, remember that the matched common sample describes the change observed for the same respondents in March and April, while the other two components reflect differences between the aggregate labour force status of different groups of people.

While the rotation groups are designed to be representative of the population, the outgoing and incoming rotation groups will almost always have somewhat different characteristics, as a result of the groups representing a sample of different households and people. The design of the survey, including the weighting and estimation processes, ensures that these differences are generally relatively minor and seeks to ensure that differences in characteristics of rotation groups do not affect the representativeness of the survey and its estimates. Monthly estimates are always designed to be representative of their respective months, regardless of the relative contribution of the three components of the sample.


COVID-19 AND THE INCOMING ROTATION GROUP IN APRIL

The ABS has been actively managing the potential risks from COVID-19 for data collection. Face-to-face interviews were suspended in the third survey collection week in March and no face-to-face interviews were conducted in April. Prior to COVID-19, around 90% of responses to the Labour Force Survey were provided through telephone interviews or online, leaving around 10% involving face-to-face interviews.

During March and April, the ABS implemented additional initiatives to support households responding by telephone or online. Nevertheless, with the suspending of face-to-face interviews, there was a small fall in response between March and April (a fall of less than 1,000 fully responding households). Around 600 of this fall was in the incoming rotation group in the sample, with the common sample (the other seven rotation groups) relatively unchanged.

Given the fall in response in the incoming rotation group, the ABS decided to reduce the influence of the incoming rotation group, as part of the standard survey estimation methods. This followed an approach last used for an incoming rotation group in Queensland, in September 2016. The ABS will undertake further analysis of the April incoming rotation group and its responses for April and May, and also undertake analysis of the May incoming rotation group, to determine whether any additional estimation enhancements are needed for these groups, to be implemented in the May 2020 Labour Force release.

In the meantime, users of the GM1 data cube should exercise caution in interpreting incoming and outgoing rotation group changes. The ABS recommends using common sample share analysis for March-April in making comparisons with data for previous periods.


OUTGOING ROTATION GROUP

In looking ahead to the May 2020 estimates, in original terms, the outgoing rotation group in April 2020, that will be replaced by a new incoming rotation group in May 2020, had an employment to population ratio in April 2020 of 59.7%, equal to the sample as a whole. The outgoing rotation group in April 2020 had a higher full-time employment to population ratio (41.6%) than the sample as a whole (41.4%).

The outgoing rotation group in April 2020 had a lower unemployment rate (5.9%) than the sample as a whole (6.3%). The outgoing rotation group in April 2020 had a lower participation rate (63.4%) than the sample as a whole (63.7%).


THE IMPORTANCE OF SEASONALLY ADJUSTED DATA

As the gross flows and rotation group data are presented in original terms, they are not directly comparable to the seasonally adjusted data discussed elsewhere in the commentary, and are included to provide additional information for the original data. Since the original data are unadjusted, they have considerable inherent seasonal patterns, which is specifically adjusted for in the seasonally adjusted series.