Participation, Job Search and Mobility, Australia methodology

Latest release
Reference period
February 2024


The Participation, Job Search and Mobility (PJSM) survey was conducted throughout Australia in February 2024 as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). Respondents to the LFS who fell within the scope of the supplementary survey were asked further questions.

It informs on the following broad labour market issues: job mobility; job search; participation and increasing participation; underemployment; potential workers and job attachment. This enables analysis of peoples experiences relating to job search, job change and increasing participation, all of which can be cross classified by other employment characteristics such as hours worked, industry, occupation and sector of job, as well as personal characteristics.

Additional information about survey design, scope, coverage and population benchmarks relevant to the monthly LFS, which also applies to supplementary surveys, can be found in Labour Force, Australia, Methodology.

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.

Scope and Coverage

The scope of the LFS is the civilian population aged 15 years and over, excluding:

  • Members of the permanent defence forces
  • Certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments
  • Overseas residents in Australia 
  • Members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants) stationed in Australia.

Students at boarding schools, patients in hospitals, residents of homes (e.g. retirement homes, homes for people with disabilities), and inmates of prisons are excluded from all supplementary surveys. 

This supplementary survey was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded people living in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

In the LFS, coverage rules are applied, which aim to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling, and hence has only one chance of selection in the survey. See Labour Force, Australia, Methodology for more details.

Collection Method

Supplementary surveys are not conducted on the full LFS sample. Since August 1994, the sample for supplementary surveys has been restricted to no more than seven-eighths of the LFS sample. This survey is based on the new sample introduced into LFS in July 2018. The new sample design has adopted the use of the Address Register as the sampling frame for unit selection, and the sampling fractions for selection probabilities within each state have been updated to reflect the most recent population distribution based on results from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. As with each regular sample design, the impacts on the data are expected to be minimal. For more information, see the Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design, Jul 2018.

Information is obtained either by trained interviewers or through self-completion online. The interviews are generally conducted during the two weeks beginning on the Sunday between the 5th and 11th of February. The information obtained relates to the week before the interview (i.e. the reference week). Occasionally, circumstances that present significant operational difficulties for survey collection can result in a change to the normal pattern for the start of interviewing.

PJSM questionnaire

Weighting and estimation

Population benchmarks

The Labour Force Survey estimates and estimates from the supplementary surveys such as Participation, Job Search and Mobility are calculated in such a way as to sum to the independent estimates of the civilian population aged 15 years and over (population benchmarks). These population benchmarks are updated quarterly based on Estimated Resident Population (ERP) data. See Labour Force, Australia, Methodology for more information.

From August 2015, Labour Force Estimates have been compiled using population benchmarks based on the most recently available release of ERP data, continually revised on a quarterly basis.

To reduce the impact of seasonality on total employment, the estimates have been adjusted by factors based on trend LFS estimates. These factors were applied at the state and territory, sex, full-time and total employment levels, based on the trend LFS series as published in the February 2024 issue of Labour Force, Australia. This adjustment accounts for February seasonality.

Comparability with LFS

Due to differences in the scope and sample size of this supplementary survey and that of the monthly LFS, the estimates procedure may lead to some small variations between labour force estimates from this survey and those from the LFS.

Survey output

Release strategy

From February 2021, statistics from the Participation, Job Search and Mobility survey are now published in 3 topic-based releases, see:

Survey Content

Participation, Job Search and Mobility collects data from people aged 15 years and older with the following conceptual groups:

  • Available for work or more hours
  • Away from work
  • Barriers to participation
  • Changes in current job over last 12 months
  • Characteristics of current main job
  • Characteristics of employment
  • Characteristics of job 12 months ago
  • Characteristics of last job
  • Demographic
  • Difficulties in finding work
  • Education
  • Families and children
  • Job offers
  • Looking for work or more hours
  • Participation and Underemployment
  • Retrenchment and lost jobs
  • Wanting to work or more hours

For more details, refer to the Data item list

PJSM Data item list

Previous surveys

Prior to 2015, statistics were published in:


Care should be taken when comparing the estimates from PJSM with previous supplementary surveys as Persons Not in the Labour Force (PNILF) and Underemployed Workers (UEW) were previously collected in September, Job Search Experience (JSE) in July, and Labour Mobility (LMOB) was collected in February. Collection of data from the combined PJSM survey was undertaken in February. 

Persons Not in the Labour Force (PNILF)

PNILF was first conducted in May 1975 and again in May 1977. From 1979 to 1987 the survey was collected twice a year (March and September). From 1988 to 2013 it was conducted annually in September. 

Underemployed Workers (UEW)

UEW was conducted in May 1985, 1988 and 1991. In 1994, the survey became an annual survey and until 2013 was collected each September.

Job Search Experience (JSE)

JSE was conducted annually in July from 2002 to 2013. Results of similar surveys on the job search experience of unemployed persons conducted in July 1984, July 1985, June 1986, July 1988, July 1990, June 1991, and annually from July 1992 to July 2001 were published in various issues of Job Search Experience of Unemployed Persons, Australia (cat. no. 6222.0). Information on people who had started work for an employer for wages or salary during the 12 months up to the end of the reference week was collected in June 1986 and two-yearly from July 1990 to July 2000 and was published in Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience, Australia (cat. no. 6245.0).

Labour Mobility

Labour Mobility and similar surveys were conducted in November 1972, February 1975, February 1976, annually from February 1979 to February 1992 and biennially from February 1994 to February 2012 and most recently in February 2013.

Accuracy and quality

Reliability of estimates

As the estimates are based on information obtained from occupants of a sample of households, they are subject to sampling variability. That is, they may differ from those estimates that would have been produced if all households had been included in the survey or a different sample was selected. Two types of error are possible in an estimate based on a sample survey - sampling error and non-sampling error.

sampling error is the difference between the published estimate and the value that would have been produced if all dwellings had been included in the survey.

non-sampling errors are inaccuracies that occur because of imperfections in reporting by respondents and interviewers, and errors made in coding and processing data. These inaccuracies may occur in any enumeration, whether it be a full count or a sample. Every effort is made to reduce the non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and effective processing procedures.

Some of the estimates contained in the tables have a relative standard error (RSE) of 50 per cent or greater. These estimates are marked as unreliable for general use. Estimates with an RSE of between 25 and 50 per cent are also marked and should be used with caution.

More on reliability of estimates


As estimates have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between sums of the component items and totals.

Standards and classifications


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History of changes

February 2024

  • The ABS has implemented some minor changes in how it accounts for some relatively small population groups within the sample. This has resulted in revisions back to February 2017.
  • Population benchmarks were revised back to February 2017 to incorporate the latest ERP, based on final 2021 Census-based population estimates.

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