6105.0 - Australian Labour Market Statistics, Jan 2008  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/01/2008   
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This article was published in the January 2008 issue of Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0).



One of the most important transitions people make in their lives is their initial foray into paid employment. This article examines the transition of individuals into their first job, focusing on their characteristics and the steps taken during their transition into paid work.

The data are sourced from the Job Search Experience Survey (JSE) which collects information on employed people who started their current job in the previous 12 months, as well as the experiences of unemployed people in seeking work. This survey is conducted on an annual basis in July as a supplement to the Labour Force Survey. Further information can be found in Job Search Experience, Australia  (cat. no. 6222.0).


In the 12 months to July 2007 there were 154,700 first job starters, i.e. persons who had never previously held a job for 2 weeks or more. Information on first job starters who started work as an owner manager or contributing family worker in a family business was not collected in JSE and is excluded from the analysis.

Age and Sex

In July 2007, most first job starters were young, with 62% aged 15-19 years and 15% aged 20-24 years. There were slightly more men who were first job starters (54%) compared to women.

Over the past five years the sex distribution of first time job starters has remained broadly consistent, but there have been some changes within the age distribution. The proportion of first job starters aged 15-19 years has decreased from 71% in 2002 to 62% in 2007, while the proportion of first job starters in later age groups has increased. The proportion aged 25-34 years has increased from 10% in July 2002 to 13% in July 2007, and for those aged 35-44 years it has increased from 2% to 6%. This may be a result of the sustained economic growth over the past five years in which people aged 25-44 years who were previously not employed have started work.

Graph: Age distribution of first job starters

Over three-quarters (77%) of those who started work for the first time had not completed a non-school qualification. This reflects the fact that the majority (62%) of first job starters without a non-school qualification aged 15-24 years were still engaged in full-time education.

Full-time/part-time status

There were 65,500 (42%) first job starters who obtained full-time employment. Overall, men accounted for 68% of all full-time first job starters. In contrast women accounted for the majority (57%) of part-time first job starters.

Close to three-fifths (58%) of first job starters obtained part-time work. Since most first job starters are young, they are more likely to combine work and study. Close to two-thirds (63%) of first job starters aged 15-19 years and over a quarter (30%) of those aged 20-24 years were engaged in full-time education.

There were 98,500 (64%) first job starters who commenced a job without paid sick leave or paid holiday leave entitlements (used in this article as a proxy definition for casual) in the 12 months to July 2007.


In the 12 months to July 2007, men tended to undertake manual based work in their first job, while women were more likely to work in service related occupations. Occupations of first job starters tended to be low-skilled, reflecting the fact that many in this group are still involved in study.

The most common occupations of men who were first job starters were Labourers (31%) and Technicians and trades workers (24%). The majority (93%) of the men in Technicians and trades workers occupations work full time, which may reflect those who have started employment in apprenticeships in the 12 months to July 2007. The main occupation of women who were commencing employment for the first time were Sales workers (45%) and Community and personal services workers (19%). Over four-fifths (85%) of the women in these occupations started part-time work.

Occupation(a), First job starters - July 2007


Technicians and Trades Workers
Community and Personal Service Workers
Clerical and Administrative Workers
Sales Workers
Machinery Operators And Drivers

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
** estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use
(a) Classified according to the ANZSCO - Australia and New Zealand Standard of Classification of Occupations, First Edition, 2006 (cat. no. 1220.0)
Job Search Experience Survey (cat. no. 6222.0)

Looking for work

In the 12 months to July 2007, among all first job starters who looked for work, 93% looked for less than one year, compared with 89% in 2002. The proportion of people who looked for less than one year and found work in under two months increased to 57% in 2007 (compared to 47% in 2002), reflecting the strengthening labour market over the past five years.

Steps taken to attain job

The ABS collects information on the steps that job starters took to attain a job.(end note 1) Of the 154,700 first job starters in the 12 months to July 2007, 84% had approached an employer in the 12 months to July 2007.(end note 2) The remaining 16% had been approached by their employer. This group was not asked about the steps they took to attain their current job (it is assumed that they did not take any steps).

The steps taken by first time job starters during their transition to work can be classified as either active or passive.(end note 3) In the 12 months to July 2007, the most common active step taken by first job starters who approached an employer was 'contacted employer' (wrote, phoned or applied in person to an employer for work) (69%). The second most common active step was 'contacted friends or relatives' (40%). The third most common step was 'answered an advertisement for a job on the Internet' (30%). This proportion has increased from 9% in 2002, reflecting the increasing use of the Internet as a tool to attain work (see graph 3).

Graph: Selected active steps taken to attain a job

Prior knowledge of job

Of the 130,100 first job starters who approached an employer in the 12 months to July 2007, 72% had prior knowledge that the job or work was available. The most common source of prior knowledge was 'friends, relatives of company contacts' (47%), followed by 'advertisements on the Internet' (15%). This emphasises the importance of networking and the use of the Internet for those individuals making successful transitions into employment for the first time. One of the least common sources of prior knowledge was 'Job Network employment agency', with 3% of first job starters using this as resource for finding a job.

Further information

For further information about the statistics of first job starters in Australia, see Job Search Experience, Australia (cat. no. 6222.0).


1. Job starters provide responses on all steps taken to attain a job, and as such people may appear in more than one category. These steps refer to all steps taken to attain a job, and are not necessarily the only steps taken to attain their current job.<Back

2. Includes 5,000 first job starters who did not take any steps to attain a job, but stated that they had approached an employer during the 12 months to July 2007.<Back

3. Active steps to attain a job include:

  • wrote, phoned or applied in person to an employer for work
  • answered an advertisement for a job in a newspaper
  • answered an advertisement for a job on the Internet
  • answered an advertisement for a job on Centrelink touchscreens
  • answered an advertisement for a job in workplace noticeboards
  • contacted friends or relatives
  • advertised or tendered for work
  • registered with a Job Network employment agency
  • registered with other employment agency
  • registered with Centrelink as a job seeker.

Looking for a job in newspapers or on the Internet are not considered active steps to seek work.<Back