Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia methodology

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Reference period
Week ending 11 September 2021

The following sections have been updated in this release:

  • How data are processed: Updating characteristic variables, updated to reflect addition of sector variable
  • Methods review: Section added to incorporate method change in Update to imputation retention 

How data are collected


The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) receives payroll information from employers with Single Touch Payroll (STP) enabled payroll and accounting software each time the employer runs its payroll. The ATO provides selected employer and job level data items from the STP system to the ABS for the production of statistics.

Scope and coverage

The scope and coverage of these estimates are largely defined and constrained by the characteristics of the data sources from which these estimates are produced. As such, users should note that not all jobs and wages in the Australian labour market are captured within these estimates.

Payroll jobs

Payroll jobs as reported to the ATO through STP are in scope of these estimates. All payroll jobholders regardless of age or Australian residency status are included. Persons reported via STP must hold either a Tax File Number (TFN) or an Australian Business Number (ABN).

A payroll job is a relationship between an employee and their employing enterprise, where the employee is paid in the reference week through STP-enabled payroll or accounting software and reported to the ATO. Where an employee is paid other than weekly, the established payment pattern is used to include payroll jobs paid in weeks outside the reference week.

Payroll jobs reported via STP exclude owner managers of unincorporated enterprises (OMUEs), which are more prevalent in the Construction and Agriculture, forestry and fishing industries. 

Employers with 20 or more employees (large employers) commenced transition to STP reporting on 1 July 2018. Employers with less than 20 employees (small employers) began transitioning to STP on 1 July 2019. Any reporting concessions that were made available for small employers ended on 30 June 2021. At the time of this release, almost all large employers and eligible small employers are reporting through STP.

In addition, payroll jobs reported in the Defence Industry (ANZSIC Class 7600) are excluded from these estimates by the ABS to better align with other Labour estimates.


The STP reported wages associated with each payroll job are in scope of these estimates. Wages are gross amounts, prior to taxation and deductions and include:

  • salary payments and allowances,
  • labour hire payments and foreign income,
  • the value of payments in kind (where a fringe benefit amount is recorded),
  • bonuses where they are reported in the same field as normal payments.

The total wages concept broadly aligns with the Australian System of National Accounts (ASNA) definition of wages and salaries, with the exception of payments to employee's superannuation and severance and termination payments which are excluded.

More specifically, the following STP reported income items are included in the production of wages estimates;

  • gross income amount (including bonuses),
  • allowance income,
  • fringe benefit amount (reportable, taxable),
  • fringe benefit amount (reportable, tax exempt),
  • other income (not specified),
  • foreign income amount including tax exempt income,
  • Community Development Employment Project income.

Other data sources

The STP data are enhanced through combining other administrative data held by the ABS (also sourced from the Australian taxation system).

Sex, age and residential geography variables are primarily sourced from Client Register data (supplied by ATO to the ABS as part of the transfer of Personal Income Tax data). Sex can only be sourced from Client Register data. When age and residential geography are not available from Client Register data, they are sourced from STP data. The ABS receives annual snapshots of de-identified Client Register data from the ATO, for use in the production of statistics.

Industry of activity, sector and employment size variables of the employing business are sourced from the ABS Business Register (ABSBR).  

How data are processed

To produce estimates from STP data, several processes and treatments are applied.


Accrual of end of financial year payments




Creation of indexes

Updating characteristic variables


These estimates are also affected by the dynamic nature and source of data. The impact on accuracy and coherence with other ABS labour statistics are described below.



How data are released

All estimates are presented for weeks ending on a Saturday. 

Summary of outputs

Each release contains both payroll jobs and total wages indexes and percentage change movements. Estimates are available at the national, state and territory and Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry Classification (ANZSIC) division by selected jobholder and employer attributes. Australian Statistical Geography Standard sub-state regions (Statistical Area 4, Statistical Area 3 and Greater Capital City Statistical Area) and ANZSIC subdivision estimates are also updated in each release. 

Levels for jobs and wages are not available for release. The payroll jobs index provides a measure of changes in jobs over time since the week ending 14 March 2020. Information on levels for jobs are best sourced from estimates of filled jobs from Labour Account Australia and estimates of employed persons from Labour Force, Australia. More information is included in Differences to Labour Force employment statistics.

The data underlying these estimates are revised in each release and reflected in percentage change movements and indexes. See Data limitations and revisions for more detail.

Time series estimates

The estimates are presented as an original series only. Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates are not yet available. A number of years of data will be required before seasonal patterns can be observed and adjusted for.

The calendarisation and imputation methodologies applied to the estimates account for calendar related variations, such as the number of days in a month, and different payment frequencies.

Privacy and confidentiality

Legislative requirements to ensure privacy and secrecy of this data have been adhered to. In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, results have been confidentialised to ensure that they are not likely to enable identification of a particular person or organisation.

All personal information is handled in accordance with the Australian Privacy Principles contained in the Privacy Act 1988. For more information, see ABS Privacy.

More information

For more information on this methodology email labour.statistics@abs.gov.au.

Methods review

The ABS is continuing to review and improve the methods which support the Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages series to enhance the quality of estimates. The Methods review section will be a regular feature of the release, as improvements to methods are progressively implemented.

Update to imputation retention

Imputation is used to account for incomplete data and reporting lags and is applied with respect to the time since the last reported payment.  Imputation includes the following considerations: 

  • If an employee has not yet had payment data reported and they have not been flagged for termination, it is assumed that their payment status is consistent with their previous reporting record. The previous calculated daily rate will be imputed for the current period.
  • If an employee has no payment data for a second consecutive pay period, it is assumed that their employment has been terminated. No further forward imputation is applied. Up until this release, imputed data was retained until 8 pay periods had elapsed.

While most employers report via STP at the time of payment, there is a range of employer reporting habits and pay frequencies. These can impact on when reporting can be considered complete for a particular reference period. With the previous 8 pay period imputation retention threshold, there were some inconsistent impacts on the indexes when imputation was removed, depending on whether it related to weekly paid jobs (8 weeks), fortnightly paid jobs (16 weeks) and monthly paid jobs (8 months). ABS analysis showed that imputation was not retained long enough for weekly paid jobs and retained too long for monthly paid jobs.

This release reflects an update to the imputation retention threshold, from 8 pay periods to 16 weeks, for all jobs. Analysis has indicated that STP data are largely complete within the 16 week period.

The following graphs present payroll jobs and wages data as released on 26 August 2021 for the week ending 31 July 2021, using the updated and previous methods.

Source: Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages, Week ending 31 July 2021

  1. Indexed to the week ending 14 March 2020. 

The difference between the two methods and related one-off revisions are greatest over April and May 2021. April sees greater seasonality in both payroll jobs and wages, which imputation can’t yet account for, resulting in over-imputation across the period.

Source: Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages, Week ending 31 July 2021

  1. Indexed to the week ending 14 March 2020.

Among industries, the impact of the update differs due to the dominant pay frequency. For industries dominated by:

  • Weekly pay frequencies, imputation is now held longer than it was previously and the index level may lift slightly in earlier reference weeks.
  • Monthly pay frequencies (such as Mining and Professional, scientific and technical services). Imputation is now held for a shorter amount of time and may result in a slight drop of the index level, particularly in weeks where imputation was held longer with the previous method.
  • Fortnightly pay frequencies (around 54% of total payroll jobs) are unaffected by the updated threshold, as eight pay periods already reflected 16 weeks.
  • Quarterly and other pay frequencies are affected by the updated threshold, however these employers represent less than 3.5% of total payroll jobs.

The ABS recommends that analyses of previously published estimates be refreshed with the data from this release.

More information on the dominant pay frequency for each industry can be found in the Imputation section of How data are processed.

Data limitations and revisions

Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia estimates are derived from data collected via the STP system, which effectively supports employer reporting obligations and ATO operational requirements through enabled software. However, it is not primarily designed to support the production of statistics and therefore some inherent limitations of the data require specific treatment and result in data revisions between releases. 

The weekly change estimates for the most recent weeks of data contain a higher degree of reporting variability and imputation (described further below). The ABS recommends that users exercise caution when focusing on change in the most recent weeks, as these estimates are subject to a greater levels of revision in subsequent releases.

As the compilation of these estimates evolves, reporting patterns sometimes arise which require detailed analysis and treatment. Outcomes from these analyses may result in changes to methodology or revisions to data which will be updated here, as required.

Week on week revisions

Variation in revisions

Incorporating new employer reported data

Reporting variability


Data components, totals and index calculation

Hours worked, job attachment and employment status

Acknowledgement of source

Differences to labour force employment statistics

The Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia indexes give a complementary insight to Labour Force statistics on employment and unemployment, which provide a longstanding and comprehensive view of the Labour market. 

The two releases generally show similar national changes in jobs and employment over time, however at the state/territory and industry levels, the differences can be more pronounced. The differences in concepts, scope and methodology used to produce these statistics can affect their interpretation as economic measures. Some factors that explain differences at the state/territory and industry levels include:

  • Real world factors - scope of STP reporting, multiple jobholding and seasonality, and
  • Measurement factors - sampling variability, reporting variability and classification variability

The following key differences should be considered when comparing these statistics:

Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in AustraliaLabour Force statistics
Focus of the statisticsJobs.People.

Around 10 million payroll jobs for which a payment was reported to the ATO through STP.(a)

99% of employers with 20 or more employees currently report through STP and over 75% of smaller employers (expected to be closer to 100% after July 2021, when the ATO removed exemptions and reporting concessions).

Coverage has increased steadily from January 2020 as more employers start reporting through STP.

All usually resident civilian people aged 15 and over (around 21 million people, of whom 13 million are employed).

Statistics are based on a large survey sample of around 50,000 people responding every month.


Revised every release as payroll periods are completed (with imputed data replaced with actual data) and as coverage increases. This ensures comparability over time.

Revised as jobholder and employer characteristics are periodically updated (currently annually).(b)

Small revisions every 3 months, aligned with new population statistics.
Types of employment

Employee jobs who are paid through a STP-reported payroll.

Also includes a small number of jobs for non-employees who are also paid through STP-reported payrolls. Payroll jobs for which a payment was reported to the ATO through STP.

All employed people, including:
Employees (including Owner managers of incorporated enterprises);

Owner managers of unincorporated enterprises;

Contributing family workers.

Whether paidOnly includes payroll jobs for which a payment was reported to the ATO through STP or there is an established payment pattern.Includes all employed people who were paid or who had a job but weren't paid (on unpaid leave, temporarily stood down without pay, etc.).
Multiple job holding

Each job is counted separately, irrespective of whether it is worked by a multiple jobholder. People who work multiple jobs may be counted multiple times.

Industry is identified for each job, not just the main job and the level of multiple jobholding can varybetween industries.

Each person is only counted once, and job characteristics (other than hours) relate to a person's main job.

Around 6% of employed people are multiple jobholders, particularly young people.

LocationResidence of the jobholder, based on address held by the ATO.Place of usual residence of people at the time of the survey.
Time seriesOriginal index series. No seasonally adjusted or trend series are available yet.Original and seasonally adjusted (trend is currently suspended, during the COVID-19 period).
  1. A compositional breakdown of payroll jobs can be found in Distribution of jobholder and employer characteristics.
  2. The update of jobholder and employer characteristics can be found in How data are processed.

Labour Force analysis of employment versus payroll jobs up to August 2020 can be found in Strong employment growth for non-employees. More information on the differences between Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages estimates and similar ABS statistics are detailed in the Coherence section of How data are processed

History of change

A timeline of recently implemented methodological changes are listed below for easy reference.

By release date


Show all


ABNAustralian Business Number
ABRAustralian Business Register
ANZSICAustralian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification
ASGSAustralian Statistical Geography Standard
ATOAustralian Taxation Office
FBTfringe benefits tax
GCCSAGreater Capital City Statistical Area
NANot Available
ptsIndex points
SA3Statistical Area Level 3
SA4Statistical Area Level 4
STPSingle Touch Payroll
TFNTax File Number
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