6291.0.55.003 - Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Feb 2019 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/03/2019   
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The Labour Force Survey sample can be thought of as comprising 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 are 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 January and February);
  • the unmatched common sample (survey respondents who responded in February but who did not respond in January, or vice versa); and
  • the incoming rotation group (survey respondents who replaced respondents who rotated out in January).

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, it is important to remember that the matched common sample describes the change observed for the same respondents in January and February, 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.


Flooding in Townsville in February 2019 resulted in a major disruption to the operation of the Labour Force Survey. As a result, there was a very low sample of responding households in the region in February.

Given the severity of these disruptions, which affected almost the entire region, and to ensure that this loss of sample did not affect data for Australia and Queensland, the ABS imputed sample for Townsville for February 2019. The imputation drew upon previous information that had recently been collected from people in Townsville.

The imputation will be re-assessed once March data has been collected from Townsville, at which point the ABS may revise the data for February. Consequently, regional level data for Townsville for February 2019 will not be published in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 6291.0.55.001) on the 28th March. The ABS expects to resume publishing these estimates for Townsville with the release of March data in April 2019.

The imputation may have resulted in a slight overestimation of hours worked in Queensland in February 2019, given hours worked in Townsville may have been lower than usual during the floods. The ABS does not currently have information on the extent of this impact.

Users of the matched sample analysis should also exercise some caution when looking at Queensland data between January and February, given the effect of the imputation for Townsville.

During 2018, the ABS estimated that employed persons in Townsville accounted for around 1 per cent of all employed persons in Australia, around 4 per cent of employed persons in Queensland, and around 9 per cent of employed persons in the regions in Queensland outside of Brisbane.


In original terms, the incoming rotation group in February 2019 recorded an unchanged employment to population ratio compared to the group it replaced (62.8% in both January and February 2019), and was higher than the ratio for the entire sample (62.6%). The full-time employment to population ratio of the incoming rotation group was lower than the group it replaced (43.8% in January, down to 42.5% in February 2019), and was lower than the ratio for the entire sample (43.2%).

The unemployment rate of the incoming rotation group was 0.9 pts higher than the group it replaced (4.5% in January 2019, 5.4% in February 2019) and recorded the same unemployment rate as the whole sample (5.4%). The participation rate was 0.6 pts higher than the group it replaced (65.7% in January 2019, 66.4% in February 2019) and was higher than the sample as a whole (66.1%).


In looking ahead to the March 2019 estimates, in original terms, the outgoing rotation group in February 2019, which will be replaced by a new incoming rotation group in March 2019, has a higher employment to population ratio (62.9% in February 2019) compared to the sample as a whole (62.6%). The full-time employment to population ratio (43.9%) is higher than the ratio for the entire sample (43.2%).

The unemployment rate for the outgoing rotation group in February 2019 is lower than the whole sample (5.1%, compared to 5.4%). The participation rate for the outgoing rotation group in February 2019 is higher than the sample as a whole (66.3%, compared to 66.1%).


As the gross flows and rotation group data are presented in original terms they are not directly comparable to the seasonally adjusted and trend 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 a considerable level of inherent sampling variability, which is specifically adjusted for in the trend series. The trend data provides the best measure of the underlying behaviour of the labour market and is the focus of the commentary in this publication.


In addition to analysis across the entire sample, the ABS also undertakes similar analysis for the responding sample in each state and territory each month, and highlights where there is a notable change for users to be aware of. For example, in the release of July 2018 data, on 16 August 2018, the ABS noted that “the rotation group effects in July 2018 were most pronounced in Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT.”

As for its reporting for the entire sample, where the ABS has not highlighted a notable incoming rotation group effect, any larger changes should therefore be considered to reflect a broader change across the sample.