6269.0 - Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design, May 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/05/2013   
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The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has been conducting the Labour Force Survey (LFS) since 1960. Originally the survey was conducted quarterly, before becoming monthly in February 1978. The LFS provides information on the labour market activity of the usually resident civilian population of Australia aged 15 years and over.

Every five years, following the availability of data from the Census of Population and Housing, the ABS reviews the LFS sample design. While the design has remained broadly the same since the introduction of the LFS, the review ensures that the survey sample continues to accurately represent the Australian population, and remains efficient and cost-effective.

The review of the LFS sample design based on 2011 Census data has been completed. For the key LFS estimates, the 2011 sample design generally maintains standard errors at the levels targeted under the 2006 sample design. The new sample design will be implemented in the LFS over the four month period May 2013 to August 2013.

This paper provides detailed information on the LFS sample design based on the 2011 Census of Population and Housing. It also outlines changes made in this sample design. These changes include:

  • the use of a new Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) for sample selection and output;
  • the roll-out of the new sample over a four month period; and
  • the decoupling (separation) of the samples for the Monthly Population Survey (including the LFS) and for Special Social Surveys.

This information paper outlines:
  • the methodology of the LFS;
  • the new sample design;
  • the changes arising from this new sample design; and
  • the impact of the new sample design on the key estimates at national, state and regional levels.

The LFS sample is also used for a number of supplementary surveys and the Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS). Further information about these surveys is available in the Other Estimates section of this information paper.


The LFS collects a wide range of information about the population. For employed people, this includes information such as whether they work full-time or part-time, and their industry, occupation, hours worked and status in employment. For people who are currently unemployed, the survey collects information about whether they are looking for a full-time or part-time job, how long they have been unemployed, and the characteristics of their last job (industry, occupation, and reason for leaving). The survey also collects personal characteristics such as sex, age, marital status, relationship in household, participation in school and tertiary education, birthplace and year of arrival in Australia.

Estimates of the number of employed and unemployed people, the unemployment rate and the labour force participation rate are of considerable interest each month, as are the aggregate hours worked and underemployment. The rate of change in the level of employment is a key economic indicator. The unemployment rate (the proportion of the labour force who are unemployed) is the main measure of unutilised labour, while the participation rate (the proportion of the population in the labour force) reflects changes in total labour availability.

The conceptual framework used in Australia’s Labour Force Survey aligns closely with the standards and guidelines set out in Resolutions of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Descriptions of the underlying concepts and structure of Australia's labour force statistics, and the sources and methods used in compiling the estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001), which is available on the ABS website <https://www.abs.gov.au>.

Survey estimates and time series data are published monthly in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0). More detailed data are available one week later in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 6291.0.55.001) and in the quarterly release Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003). These products are available on the ABS web site at <https://www.abs.gov.au>.


The ABS has been introducing a number of enhancements to the LFS. These changes include the new sample design, the introduction of online self-completion by respondents, regular population re-benchmarking of survey estimates to reflect the latest available information of the population, and improvements to the content of the LFS and labour supplementary surveys. The new sample may have some impact on the monthly change and the levels of the LFS. If there is any impact from online self-completion it will not be able to be separated from impacts of the new sample on key series during the time the new sample is implemented.

This Information Paper provides information on the new sample design. Information on the other improvements are available in the Article Archive and Notes sections of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0).