Job Vacancies, Australia methodology

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Reference period
August 2020


The Job Vacancies Survey (JVS) was first conducted in 1974 and has been conducted on a quarterly basis since 1979. The survey produces estimates of the number of job vacancies in Australia, which are used as a leading indicator of employment growth in monitoring of the Australian labour market and economy, and for formulating economic policy.

Descriptions of the underlying concepts of Australia's job vacancies statistics, and the sources and methods used in compiling these estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001).

Explanatory notes

Reference period

The JVS reference date is the third Friday of the middle month of the quarter, i.e. February, May, August and November. Job vacancies data relate to the number of vacancies which exist on the actual survey reference date only, and not for a monthly or quarterly period.

Scope and coverage

The survey covers all employing organisations in Australia (public and private sectors), except:

  • enterprises primarily engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing;
  • private households employing staff; and
  • foreign embassies, consulates, etc.

All job vacancies of organisations covered in the survey are in scope, except those:

  • in the Australian permanent defence forces; and
  • located outside Australia.

Collection method

Details of the total number of job vacancies available for immediate filling on the survey reference date are obtained on a quarterly basis from selected businesses. Data are collected via online electronic collection, and/or telephone interviews.

Follow-up procedures are in place to obtain information from respondents who don't lodge a completed form by the due date. The target minimum response is 95% for the survey as a whole, and approximately 90% for each state and/or industry.

Sample design

The sample is selected from the ABS Business Register (ABSBR) which is a list of businesses and organisations operating in Australia primarily based on registrations to the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) Pay-As-You-Go Withholding (PAYGW) scheme. The population is updated quarterly to take account of new businesses, businesses that have ceased employing, changes in industry and employment levels and other general business changes.

A probability sample of statistical units (employing businesses) is drawn from the ABSBR. The statistical unit for the survey comprises all the activities of an employer in a particular state or territory based on the Australian Business Number (ABN) unit or Type of Activity Unit (TAU). Each statistical unit is classified to an industry which reflects the predominant activity of the business. Variables used to stratify the survey frame are:

  • public/private sector;
  • industry;
  • state/territory; and
  • employment size – the ranges used vary between states/territories and industries.

Statistical units with benchmark employment greater than a set cut off (this cut off will vary for different states/territories) are completely enumerated. Strata with a very small number of statistical units may also be completely enumerated, but such strata may become sampled strata if the number of units increases sufficiently. Within each stratum, statistical units are selected with equal probability.

Sample selection is constrained by ensuring that there is minimum overlap with other labour-related business surveys.

For details on the ABS Business Register and ABS economic units model, see the Methods used in ABS Business Surveys chapter in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods.

Sample size

Approximately 5,500 statistical units are selected in the sample to yield a live sample of approximately 5,130 units. The sample is allocated optimally across the strata using a technique designed to minimise the variance of job vacancies estimates at both the national and state/territory level.

Sample rotation

The sample is updated each quarter to reflect changes in the ABS Business Register. Sample rotation is implemented for the majority of strata, but is not implemented where the population of a stratum is so small that units rotating out of the sample would be rotated back in after only a short interval. Approximately 8% of the sample for the non-completely enumerated strata is replaced each quarter.


Number raised estimation is used in all strata.

For non-responding units in the sampled strata, the Live Respondent Mean method of imputation is used.

For non-responding units in the completely enumerated (CE) strata, an imputed growth rate is applied to the previous quarter's reported value for that unit. Growth rates are estimated for each industry division, based on data provided by CE units in the current and previous quarter. Where data for non-responding CE units have not been reported in the previous quarter, ratio imputation is used. The ratio of job vacancies to benchmark employment is calculated at industry division level for responding units from the current quarter. This ratio is then applied to the benchmark employment for the non-responding unit to arrive at the imputed value for job vacancies.

For the May 2020 quarter, the JVS imputation processes were further refined to incorporate JobKeeper registration information in the imputation class structure. This improved the accuracy of imputation for the small number of businesses unable to respond this quarter, by better controlling for COVID-19 impacts.

Survey estimates include an adjustment called Business Provisions, to allow for births and resurrections of businesses that have occurred up to the end of the survey reference period but which are not reflected on the survey frame.

For further information on estimation methods used in ABS business surveys, refer to the Methods used in ABS Business Surveys chapter in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods.

Seasonal adjustment and trend estimation

Seasonal adjustment is a means of removing the estimated effects of normal seasonal variation from the series so that the effects of other influences can be more clearly recognised. Seasonal adjustment does not aim to remove the irregular or non-seasonal influences which may be present in any particular series. Influences that are volatile or unsystematic can still make it difficult to interpret the movement of the series even after adjustment for seasonal variation. This means that quarter-to-quarter movements of seasonally adjusted estimates may not be reliable indicators of trend behaviour.

Seasonally adjusted estimates can be smoothed to reduce the impact of irregular or non-seasonal influences. Smoothed seasonally adjusted series are called trend estimates. The ABS considers that trend estimates provide a more reliable guide to the underlying direction of the data, and are more suitable than either the seasonally adjusted or original estimates for most business decisions and policy advice.

During the COVID-19 period, the ABS will use forward seasonal factors to produce seasonally adjusted estimates at the Australia level and for the public sector. Forward factor adjustments are generally better suited to managing large movements at the end point of a series and ensure that large movements do not have a disproportionate influence on the seasonal factors.

Due to a non-seasonal span in the private sector series, the forward factor approach is not considered suitable and the concurrent adjustment method was retained for this series.

Commencing with the May 2020 quarter, all trend series have been suspended until more certainty emerges in the underlying trend in job vacancies estimates over the COVID-19 period. The ABS will review this treatment in future quarters.

For a more detailed discussion on the implications of unusual events on time series, see When it's not "business-as-usual": Implications for ABS Time Series.

Suspension of job vacancies survey between May 2008 and November 2009

The JVS was suspended following the May 2008 survey and was reinstated for the November 2009 survey. As a result, there is a gap in all series: original, seasonally adjusted and trend, for five periods between August 2008 and August 2009 inclusive. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) cannot produce reliable estimates by collecting this missing data retrospectively, and has not been able to fill the gap using other data sources.

Modelled data, at the Australia by sector level only, have been used in the calculation of trend and seasonally adjusted estimates for the three cycles either side of the gap period. The modelled data, which is for the gap period from August 2008 to August 2009 inclusive, are not part of the JVS series and are not available for release from this publication.

For further information, see Information Paper: Reinstatement of Job Vacancies Survey (cat. no. 6354.0.55.001).

Survey output

Data are available by:

  • State and Territory
  • Sector (Public/Private); and
  • Industry.

Data on job vacancies by sector are available on original, seasonally adjusted and trend basis. Data for industries, and for states and territories, are only available on an original basis.

    Reliability of estimates

    Estimates are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors. For information on the reliability of estimates see the Technical Note.


      Estimates have been rounded and discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals. Estimates of percentage change have been calculated using unrounded estimates, and may be different from, but are more accurate than, movements obtained from calculating percentage change using the rounded estimates presented in this release.

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        Technical note - sampling error

        Reliability of estimates

        1 As the estimates in this release are based on information relating to a sample of employers rather than a full enumeration, they are subject to sampling variability. That is, they may differ from the estimates that would have been produced if the information had been obtained from all employers. This difference, called sampling error, should not be confused with inaccuracy that may occur because of imperfections in reporting by respondents or in processing by the ABS. Such inaccuracy is referred to as non-sampling error and may occur in any enumeration whether it be a full count or sample. Efforts have been made to reduce non-sampling error by careful design of questionnaires, detailed checking of returns and quality control of processing.

        2 The sampling error associated with any estimate can be estimated from the sample results. One measure of sampling error is given by the standard error which indicates the degree to which an estimate may vary from the value which would have been obtained from a full enumeration (the ‘true value’). There are about two chances in three that a sample estimate differs from the true value by less than one standard error, and about 19 chances in 20 that the difference will be less than two standard errors.

        3 An example of the use of a standard error on levels is as follows. If the estimated number of job vacancies was 25,000 with a standard error of 2,500, then there would be about two chances in three that a full enumeration would have given an estimate in the range 22,500 to 27,500 and about 19 chances in 20 that it would be in the range 20,000 to 30,000.

        4 An example of the use of a standard error for a quarterly change estimate is as follows. If the estimated standard error for a quarterly change estimate of job vacancies was 1,000 and the quarterly change estimate between two quarters was 4,500, then there would be about two chances in three that a full enumeration would have given a quarterly change estimate in the range +3,500 to +5,500 and about 19 chances in 20 that it would be in the range +2,500 to +6,500.

        5 Quarterly movements in estimates of job vacancies are considered to be statistically significant where they exceed two standard errors.

        6 Another measure of the sampling error (for level estimates only) is the relative standard error, which is obtained by expressing the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers. Level estimates with a relative standard error between 25% and 50%, denoted by an asterisk in this release, are subject to sampling variability generally considered to be too high for most practical purposes and should be used with caution. Level estimates with a relative standard error of 50% or more, denoted by a double asterisk, are considered to be too unreliable for general use.

        7 The dramatic change in the number of job vacancies in the May 2020 JVS was reflected in Relative Standard Error (RSE) increases, especially for the smaller industry divisions. This reflects the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 period, with extreme reductions in vacancies within the economy, rather than a reduction in the measurement precision of estimates.

        8 The following two tables shows the standard errors for quarterly level and movement for States and territories by Sector, based on original data for the current quarter. The third table shows the standard errors for level estimates by industry.

        Standard Errors ('000), quarterly level job vacancies by sector and states and territories - August 2020
        New South Wales3.81.24.0
        South Australia1.30.11.3
        Western Australia3.30.33.4
        Northern Territory0.70.20.7
        Australian Capital Territory0.50.10.5
        Standard Errors ('000), quarterly movement job vacancies by sector and states and territories - August 2020
        New South Wales3.80.53.9
        South Australia1.40.11.4
        Western Australia2.40.52.5
        Northern Territory0.60.10.6
        Australian Capital Territory0.40.10.4
        Standard Errors ('000), Job Vacancies - Industry
        Electricity, gas, water and waste services0.
        Wholesale trade1.
        Retail trade2.
        Accommodation and food services2.
        Transport, postal and warehousing0.
        Information media and telecommunications0.
        Financial and insurance services0.
        Rental, hiring and real estate services0.
        Professional, scientific and technical services3.
        Administrative and support services2.
        Public administration and safety0.
        Education and training1.
        Health care and social assistance2.
        Arts and recreation services0.
        Other services1.
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