6150.0.55.003 - Labour Account Australia, Quarterly Experimental Estimates, December 2018 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/03/2019   
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This article explores the data sources that could be used to produce information on public and private employment and the number of filled jobs each quarter in the Australian Labour Account.


There are a number of standard classifications which group the national economy into broad economic sectors. These sector classifications enable information to be provided about groups of economic units that have similar functions or institutional characteristics; for example, households, corporations or government units.

One commonly used sector classification in labour statistics is the public and private sector classification. In this classification, the public sector includes all government units, such as government departments, non-market non-profit institutions that are controlled and mainly financed by government, and corporations and quasi-corporations that are controlled by government. The private sector refers to enterprises that are not controlled by Commonwealth, state/territory or local governments (that is, any enterprise that is not part of the public sector).

More information on the public and private sectors is available in Standard Economic Sector Classifications of Australia (SESCA) (cat. no. 1218.0).


Household surveys

The provision of more frequent estimates of sector of main job was identified in the review of labour force statistics, as detailed in Outcomes of the Labour Household Surveys Content Review (cat. no. 6107.0). These data were considered to be important in understanding the public and private sector components of the labour market and their contributions to the economy over time.

As a result of this review, since August 2014, public and private sector of main job has been derived from quarterly industry information in the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Prior to this, these data were available through the Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership (cat. no. 6310.0) and Working Time Arrangements (cat. no. 6342.0) supplementary survey publications. All of these data have been reliant on the quality of information provided by respondents around the name of the employing business and the activities undertaken by the business.

Business surveys and administrative data

For business surveys and administrative data, sector is available on the ABS Business Register (ABSBR). The ABSBR is a list of businesses and organisations operating in Australia, and is based on information from the Australian Taxation Office's Australian Business Register (ABR).

There are a number of business surveys which include labour related information classified by sector, with the most important being:

  • the annual Economic Activity Survey (published in Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0)), which includes information on the private sector;
  • the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey (published in Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0)), which includes information on the private sector;
  • the Survey of Employment and Earnings (published in Employment and Earnings, Public Sector (cat. no. 6248.0.55.002)) which includes information on the public sector; and
  • the Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours (published in Employee Earnings and Hours, Australia (cat. no. 6306.0)) which includes information on both sectors.


The Australian Labour Account has been developed to provide a framework that brings together data from a number of sources including household surveys, business surveys and administrative data. Through the balancing and confrontation processes of the Labour Account, the ABS is able to produce estimates of key labour market variables that are coherent with the National Accounts, which more effectively enable the industry analysis of the state of the Australian labour market and changes over time.

The Australian Labour Account already provides the most comprehensive source of industry based estimates of both employed persons and the number of jobs. Industry information in the Australian Labour Account is more reliant on business sources for its industry distribution, as these sources draw directly upon the categorisation of industry from the ABS Business Register. This ensures that labour inputs are effectively connected to their related production, employment related costs and the compensation of employees, which are measured using business based data sources.

While the Australian Labour Account does not currently produce information by sector, it is well placed to, given sector information is also available from its key data sources. The ABS is currently exploring a range of techniques and methodologies for compiling sector estimates in the Australian Labour Account, drawing on the same sources used for industry level information.

One simple approach would be to derive a proportional sector split in the Labour Account using the relationship between private sector aggregates in the Quarterly Business Indicators Survey (benchmarked to data from the annual Economic Activity Survey) and public sector aggregates in the annual Survey of Employment and Earnings (distributed across quarters using movements in Compensation of Employees).

The following graphs provide an illustration of employed persons data produced from this approach, which are presented together with the employed persons data from Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003). The Labour Account data is noticeably less variable over time, and the ABS considers that it would provide a more reliable indication of both the level and changes in employment and jobs by sector. It is also important to note that the Labour Account time series would be around twice as long as its Labour Force Survey counterpart, and would be further extended as Labour Account data are expanded to include earlier periods.

Graph 1: Labour Account and Labour Force Survey - Private Sector Comparison, Total All Industries

Graph 2: Labour Account and Labour Force Survey - Public Sector Comparison, Total All Industries


The ABS is keen to hear from users of public and private sector data about the usefulness of the information in this article and whether sector data would be a useful addition to the Australian Labour Account.

The ABS is also interested in comments around the value of these data relative to the data released in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003), if employed persons estimates by sector were available in the Labour Account.