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Labour Account Australia

Provides estimates for the Australian Labour Account, a framework to produce a coherent and consistent set of aggregate labour statistics

Reference period
March 2020
Released
10/06/2020

Key statistics

  • Total number of jobs increased 0.5% (73,100) in trend terms.
  • Total number of employed persons increased 0.3% in trend terms.
  • Job vacancies increased by 4,400 in trend terms.
  • Hours actually worked increased to 0.5% in trend terms.

Key findings

The number of filled jobs in Australia decreased by 9,200 to 14.5 million in seasonally adjusted terms in the March quarter 2020.

Main jobs decreased by 18,000 and secondary jobs increased by 8,800.

Hours actually worked decreased by 44.4 million hours to 5.4 billion hours.

Total labour income increased by $878 million, resulting in the average labour income per employed person being $19,210.

Data Item DescriptionTrendSeasonally Adjusted
Dec qtr 2019 to Mar qtr 2020 % changeMar qtr 2019 to Mar qtr 2020 % changeDec qtr 2019 to Mar qtr 2020 % changeMar qtr 2019 to Mar qtr 2020 % change
Filled Jobs0.51.6-0.11.7
Main Job0.41.6-0.11.7
Secondary Job2.12.80.92.7
Job Vacancies1.9-0.8-0.2-2.2
Hours Actually Worked0.51.7-0.80.6
Average Hours Actually Worked Per Job0.00.0-0.8-1.1
Average Income Per Employed Personn.p.n.p.0.01.6
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Analysis

Trend

In trend terms the total number of jobs in Australia increased by 73,100 (or 0.5%), made up of an increase of 4,400 job vacancies and an increase of 68,700 filled jobs.

Filled jobs in Australia grew by 0.5% in the March quarter 2020, following a 0.4% rise in the December quarter 2019. Filled jobs grew 1.6% through the year in trend terms.

The number of main jobs grew by 48,700 (an increase of 0.4%) while secondary jobs grew by 20,000 (an increase of 2.1%) in the March quarter 2020.

The total number of employed persons increased by 0.3% to 13.5 million in the March quarter 2020.

The total number of hours actually worked increased by 0.5% to 5.5 billion hours and total labour income increased by 0.9% to $260,920 million.

Seasonally adjusted

Jobs

Filled jobs in Australia decreased by 0.1% in the March quarter 2020, following a 0.9% rise in the December quarter 2019. Filled jobs grew 1.7% through the year in seasonally adjusted terms.

The total number of jobs in Australia decreased by 9,600 (or 0.1%), made up of a decrease of 400 job vacancies and a decrease of 9,200 filled jobs.

The proportion of vacant jobs (PVJ) remained steady at 1.6% in the March quarter 2020.

The number of main jobs fell by 18,000 (a decrease of 0.1%), while secondary jobs grew by 8,800 (an increase of 0.9%) in the March quarter 2020.

Of the total decrease in filled jobs of 0.1%, -0.1 percentage points was attributable to the change in main jobs and 0.1 percentage points to the change in secondary jobs.

The number of public sector jobs increased by 0.8% in the March 2020 quarter, while the number of private sector jobs decreased by 0.1%.

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Persons

The total number of employed persons increased by 0.3% to 13.5 million in the March quarter 2020.

The number of multiple job holders increased by 0.6% in the March quarter 2020.

There were 714,000 unemployed persons in the March quarter 2020, an increase of 22,200 persons from December quarter 2019.

There were 1,167,000 underemployed persons in the March quarter 2020, an increase of 40,000 persons from December quarter 2019.

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Volumes

The total number of hours actually worked decreased by 0.8% to 5.4 billion hours; and the total number of hours paid decreased 0.7% to 5.9 billion hours.

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Payments

Total labour income increased by 0.3% to $259,992 million.

Total compensation of employees increased by 0.6% to $238,926 million, and labour income from self-employment decreased by 2.0% to $21,066 million.

Over the same period, total labour costs increased by $775 million (0.3%) to $277,011 million.

Ratio

Average income per person increased to $19,210 in the March quarter 2020.

Average hours worked per job decreased by 0.8% to 372 hours. Average hours worked per job is the hours actually worked divided by all filled jobs.

Average labour cost per hour paid remained the same at $47.

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Jobs

Filled jobs in Australia decreased by 0.1% in the March quarter 2020, following a 0.9% rise in the December quarter 2019. Filled jobs grew 1.7% through the year in seasonally adjusted terms.

Labour Account filled jobs, proportion by industry, March quarter 2020

IndustryLabour Account Filled Jobs
March qtr 2020
('000)
Proportion of Total All Industries
March qtr 2020
(%)
Agriculture, forestry and fishing (A)468.13.2
Mining (B)193.41.3
Manufacturing (C)926.06.4
Electricity, gas, water and waste services (D)124.70.9
Construction (E)1,200.48.3
Wholesale trade (F)606.14.2
Retail trade (G)1,412.59.7
Accommodation and food services (H)1,099.17.6
Transport, postal and warehousing (I)691.64.8
Information media and telecommunications (J)174.71.2
Financial and insurance services (K)472.33.3
Rental, hiring and real estate services (L)298.62.1
Professional, scientific and technical services (M)1,287.38.9
Administrative and support services (N)916.36.3
Public administration and safety (O)783.15.4
Education and training (P)1,132.97.8
Health care and social assistance (Q)1,962.413.5
Arts and recreation services (R)213.41.5
Other services (S)550.43.8
Total All Industries14,513.2100.0
   

Labour Account filled jobs, percentage change by industry, March quarter 2020

IndustryTrendSeasonally Adjusted
Dec qtr 2019 to Mar qtr 2020
% change
Mar qtr 2019 to Mar qtr 2020
% change
Dec qtr 2019 to Mar qtr 2020
% change
Mar qtr 2019 to Mar qtr 2020
% change
Agriculture, forestry and fishing (A)0.2-1.81.2-1.3
Mining (B)0.34.41.27.5
Manufacturing (C)0.64.00.53.6
Electricity, gas water and waste services (D)-0.35.3-0.77.7
Construction (E)1.61.61.91.9
Wholesale trade (F)1.13.91.33.7
Retail trade (G)0.1-1.10.3-0.8
Accommodation and food services (H)-1.4-0.8-5.5-3.0
Transport, postal and warehousing (I)0.1-0.90.9-0.8
Information media and telecommunications (J)-0.9-4.7-1.6-3.0
Financial and insurance services (K)2.53.33.32.9
Rental, hiring and real estate services (L)0.53.3-0.92.3
Professional, scientific and technical services (M)1.34.8-1.44.4
Administrative and support services (N)-0.91.4-1.42.1
Public administration and safety (O)0.71.31.62.2
Education and training (P)0.11.51.11.8
Health care and social assistance (Q)2.26.51.88.2
Arts and recreation services (R)-4.3-8.9-8.9-10.4
Other services (S)-1.4-5.0-2.7-7.3
Total All Industries0.51.6-0.11.7
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Secondary jobs

Secondary jobs are where a person is working more than one job at the same time, and may consist of one or more additional jobs. These jobs can be held by persons who have their main job in the same or a different industry. The proportion of secondary jobs to filled jobs was 6.8% in the March quarter 2020 and 6.7% in the previous quarter.

The top three industries who have the highest number of secondary jobs in the March quarter 2020 were Administrative and support services, Health care and social assistance and Education and training.

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Persons

The Australian Labour Account produces the number of people employed from an industry perspective. As a result, the sum of employed persons in the Australian Labour Account across industry divisions does not equal the total number of people employed in the whole economy, given some people are employed in multiple industries.

The top three industries who have the highest number of employed persons in the March quarter 2020 were Health care and social assistance, Retail trade and Professional, scientific and technical services.

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Volume (hours)

Hours actually worked is the time spent in a job for the performance of activities that contribute to the production of goods and services during a specified short or long reference period.

The top three industries who have the highest number of hours actually worked in the March quarter 2020 were Health care and social assistance, Professional, scientific and technical services and Construction.

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Payments

The Labour Account Payments quadrant presents the costs incurred by enterprises in employing labour, and the incomes received by people from its provision. Total income consists of compensation of employees and labour income from self-employment. The addition of other related costs to employers to total income will derive total labour costs.

The top three industries who have the highest total labour income in the March quarter 2020 were Health care and social assistance, Professional, scientific and technical services and Construction.

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Removing the experimental status and other changes

Changes in future issues - removal of experimental label

The ABS has removed the experimental label from the Australian Labour Account with the March 2020 issue, following a period of feedback and consultation. The ABS will continue to publish future quarterly and annual Australian Labour Account information through the existing catalogue number (6150.0.55.003), and will seek to minimise revisions to the existing suite of Labour Account estimates in the future.

Changes in this issue - impact of COVID-19 pandemic

The ABS has undertaken analysis into the early impacts from COVID-19 on the Australian Labour Account in the March 2020 quarter. These are presented alongside previous March quarter movements in the technical note "Impact of COVID-19 on the Labour Account" in this issue.

The ABS is also monitoring and managing the data collection impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on key inputs into the Labour Account. There was no notable impact on any of these data collection activities for the March 2020 quarter.

Changes in this issue - impact of recent bushfires

A key input to the Australian Labour Account is the monthly Labour Force Survey. While bushfires resulted in some disruption to data collection activities during January 2020 and February 2020, with some remaining areas still unable to surveyed during March 2020, these disruptions did not result in any notable impacts to Labour Force statistics. For further information, refer to details in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0).

Changes in this issue - revisions

Data in the four quadrants of the Labour Account, both quarterly and annual, have been revised from the previously published estimates.

Revisions may be attributable to a range of factors, including:

  • Revisions to quarterly source data, including:

                               i.   revisions to data from the Labour Force Survey,

                              ii.   revisions to Overseas Arrivals and Departures data,

                             iii.   revisions to data from the quarterly Australian National Accounts, and

                             iv.   revisions to data from the Job Vacancies Survey.
 

  • Seasonal factors for quarterly seasonally adjusted and trend data have been refined with the addition of a further quarterly observation.
     

To see the impact of these updates, refer to Table 22. Quarterly Revisions.

Technical note - impact of COVID-19 on the Labour Account

What is the Labour Account and what are its strengths in measuring the labour market impacts of COVID-19?

The Australian Labour Account has been developed to provide a framework for integrating data from a number of sources (including household surveys, business surveys, and administrative data). By confronting a range of indicators, the Labour Account provides a suite of highly consistent estimates of key labour market variables. While not as timely or detailed as the source data, such as the Labour Force Survey, it does provide the best holistic information on the impacts of COVID-19 on the labour market.

The Labour Account can help users make sense of existing labour market data from diverse sources, with the aim of producing a coherent and consistent set of aggregate labour market statistics. Differences in data sources are magnified when data are disaggregated by industry or sector, or in analysis requiring the combination of data from both business and household sources (for example, when combining output and hours worked by industry to derive industry productivity growth rates).

The Labour Account helps address data coherence by:

  • bringing together related labour statistics from multiple sources in a single set of tables;
  • applying a consistent set of concepts across the data to explore statistical anomalies;
  • making transparent adjustments to data to offset conceptual and scope differences; and
  • making further informed and documented data adjustments to provide a balanced set of labour statistics.
     

The Labour Account consists of four quadrant tables: jobs, persons, volume and payments. The Labour Account is able to combine data from the jobs, persons, volume and payments tables to calculate average hours worked, average remuneration (per person and per job), and average labour costs per job.

Traditionally, the Labour Force Survey has been the primary source of information on employment by industry over time. However, industry information is not what the Labour Force Survey is primarily designed to measure, which is the labour force status of the population (that is, whether people are employed, unemployed or not in labour force) and their key demographics.

The ABS considers the Labour Account to be the best source of headline information on employment by industry and sector. While less timely than data available from the Labour Force Survey, the Labour Account has been specifically designed to produce the most comprehensive estimates for industries in Australia, drawing upon a broad range of data sources. It provides an estimate of the number of jobs, hours worked, and associated labour income that align very well with industry measures of output in the economy. In the future, it is expected to lead to improvements in the measurement of productivity, as Labour Account estimates are more consistent with concepts of production and residency which underpin estimates from the National Accounts.

The comparative strength of the industry information in the Labour Account is that it is generally drawn from how businesses have been officially categorised, rather than how employed people (most of whom are employees) describe the business they work in. The Labour Account shows that there are a number of people in the labour market who, when responding to the Labour Force Survey, will describe the business activities that are most relevant to their job, rather than the actual industry of the business that pays their wages or salary. Labour Account data for the June 2020 quarter will be particularly important for providing a best estimate of the impacts of COVID-19 impacts on each industry.

Assessing COVID-19 impacts on hours worked measures

During times of a significant shock to the economy and the labour market, the impact is most likely to be seen first in measures of hours worked, ahead of changes in jobs and employment.

During the Global Financial Crisis, employers often opted to reduce hours, rather than lose employees. In March and April 2020, social distancing and other restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 resulted in a large reduction in hours worked in Australia and the JobKeeper program was introduced to limit job losses and a fall in employment. Labour Force Survey data showed a 9.2% reduction in seasonally adjusted monthly hours worked between March and April 2020, which was around double the fall in employment (4.6%).

There are a number of key differences when comparing hours worked estimates from the Labour Account with those from the Labour Force Survey. These include:

  • a redistribution of the Labour Force Survey hours worked across industry in the Labour Account to account for secondary job holding. This adjustment overcomes a limitation with industry-based measures of hours worked in the Labour Force Survey, whereby all reported hours worked are allocated to a person's industry of main job;
  • additional estimates of hours worked in the Labour Account for populations which are out of scope of the Labour Force Survey. These populations include short term non-residents, Australian residents employed by overseas organisations, members of the permanent defence forces, and children aged 5 to 14 years; and
  • adjustments made to hours worked in the Labour Account through the balancing and confrontation processes.
     

The March 2020 Labour Force Survey aggregate monthly hours worked measures did not show a significant reduction from the shutdown and social distancing measures introduced to slow the spread of COVID-19. This was mainly due to the reference period for the March survey being the first two weeks in March, with the reference period for the April Labour Force Survey similarly the first two weeks in April. A global pandemic was not declared until later in March, and the majority of trading and other restrictions also did not commence until this time.

While Labour Force Survey aggregate monthly hours worked data are able to account for seasonal effects outside of the survey reference periods, changes in hours worked are entirely based on changes in observed data in the survey reference periods.

To account for the change in hours worked during the last week of March, which occurred outside of the Labour Force Survey reference period, an adjustment has been applied to the quarterly Labour Account hours worked for the March quarter 2020. A related adjustment was also applied in the March quarter 2020 National Accounts.

This adjustment was calculated using the following six steps:

  1. Calculate the proportion of quarterly Labour Account hours worked across each month of the March quarter 2020, based on proportions from the seasonally adjusted Labour Force Survey monthly aggregate hours worked.
  2. Apply this proportion to March quarter 2020 Labour Account balanced hours worked to identify the component requiring an adjustment.
  3. Multiply the March monthly Labour Account value by (1/4.3) to create a final week estimate of March Labour Accounts hours worked.
  4. Multiply the final week of March Labour Account hours worked by the proportional change in Labour Force Survey monthly aggregate hours worked from March to April. This creates a control total for the aggregate adjustment.
  5. Apportion this control total to the industry level, based on the contribution of each industry to the total change in Single Touch Payroll weekly wages aggregates (using changes in wages by industry as a proxy for changes in hours worked by industry).
  6. Confront hours worked with information in other Labour Account quadrants, at an industry level.
     

An inherent and unavoidable overarching assumption in this adjustment is that all of the month-to-month decrease in Labour Force Survey hours worked occurred in the final week of March, given there is no source for hours worked in every week of the month. The timing of changes in weekly Single Touch Payroll data suggested that this was a reasonable assumption.

The adjustment to hours worked produced using the above method resulted in a Labour Account estimate which was more coherent with other economic information, particularly the National Accounts, and was confronted with the information in the other three quadrants of the Labour Account.

The average movement in original terms for hours worked in the March quarter in the Labour Account for the 10 years prior to 2020 was an increase of 0.5%. The decrease of 0.6% in the March quarter 2020 was weaker than the longer term average (as was the unadjusted movement for March quarter 2020, which would have been an increase of 0.1%).

In seasonally adjusted terms, hours worked decreased by 0.8% in the March quarter 2020.

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There were larger than usual changes in average measures this quarter (for example, average hours worked and average income per hour worked). This reflected the extent of compositional change in industry work forces and hours worked that occurred during the quarter, particularly in late March. Further information on these compositional changes can be found in recent releases of Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia and Labour Force Australia.

Assessing COVID-19 impacts on jobs

The average movement in original terms for filled jobs in the March quarter in the Labour Account for the 10 years prior to 2020 was a decrease of 0.4%. The March quarter 2020 decrease of 0.7% was greater than the longer term average, but similar to the March quarter 2019 movement.

In seasonally adjusted terms, filled jobs decreased by 0.1% in the March quarter 2020.

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The Labour Account compiles independent estimates of the number of filled jobs from both a household and business perspective. The difference between these two estimates is referred to as the "statistical discrepancy". This discrepancy is reduced to zero through the balancing processes of the Labour Account, through producing a single harmonised or "balanced" number of filled jobs for each industry and the total economy.

A significant change in the size of the statistical discrepancy over a short time frame can indicate a change in the level of coherence between business and household based data sources. The statistical discrepancy in March quarter 2020 was around 2.2% of the household estimate in March quarter 2020, compared with 1.7% in the previous quarter. This relatively small increase in the statistical discrepancy suggests there was no significant change in the level of coherence between the measures of jobs in business and household based sources in March quarter 2020.

Assessing COVID-19 impacts on employment and other person measures

The Labour Account estimates presented in the persons quadrant are underpinned by data from the Labour Force Survey. The March quarter 2020 monthly Labour Force Survey did not show a significant impact on key estimates of employment, unemployment or underemployment from the onset of COVID-19. While similarly minimal impact was observed in the equivalent Labour Account estimates of employed and underemployed persons, more change than usual was observed in the Labour Account unemployed persons estimates.

The average movement in original terms for employed persons in the March quarter in the Labour Account for the 10 years prior to 2020 was a decrease of 0.4%. The March quarter 2020 decrease of 0.7% was greater than the longer term average.

In seasonally adjusted terms, employed persons increased by 0.3% in the March quarter 2020.

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The average movement in original terms for unemployed persons in the March quarter in the Labour Account for the 10 years prior to 2020 was an increase of 10.3%. The March quarter 2020 increase of 15.0% was higher than the longer term average and was one of the largest quarterly increases observed in the recent time series, in original terms.

In seasonally adjusted terms, unemployed persons increased by 3.2% in the March quarter 2020.

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The average movement in original terms for underemployed persons in the March quarter in the Labour Account for the 10 years prior to 2020 was an increase of 0.1%, although this average result was the overall outcome from a range of relatively large positive and negative movements. The March quarter 2020 increase of 2.4% was not particularly large when compared with historical data.

In seasonally adjusted terms, underemployed persons increased by 3.5% in the March quarter 2020.

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Assessing COVID-19 impacts on labour income

On 30 March 2020, the Australian Government announced that the JobKeeper program would support eligible employers and employees to maintain job attachment and earnings through a wage subsidy. Payments are being made to eligible employers who will pay their eligible employees through existing payroll arrangements, and will be included within the estimates of compensation of employees. This treatment of JobKeeper payments in economic statistics was detailed in the following article.

Given the period for JobKeeper payments will only include the final two days of the reference period for March quarter 2020, the impact on Labour Account estimates of compensation of employees and labour income is likely to have been minimal.

The average movement in original terms for compensation of employees in the March quarter in the Labour Account for the 10 years prior to 2020 was a decrease of 4.0%. The March quarter 2020 decrease of 4.5% was consistent with this longer term average.

In seasonally adjusted terms, compensation of employees increased by 0.6% in the March quarter 2020.

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Seasonal adjustment and trend estimation in the Labour Account

Analysis of the seasonally adjusted and trend estimates for published Labour Account data did not show significant unexplained revisions to either trend or seasonally adjusted estimates, following the inclusion of data for March quarter 2020. Analysis of seasonally adjusted estimates for March quarter 2020 also did not identify significant data outliers or major changes to seasonal patterns in published Labour Account data, despite some relatively large seasonally adjusted movements for industries impacted by COVID-19 like Accommodation and food services and Arts and recreation services.

As a result, no changes were required in the methods for producing seasonally adjusted and trend estimates. However, following the decision to suspend trend data in the National Accounts, trend data from the payments quadrant of the Labour Account have also been suspended.

The ABS will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of seasonal adjustment and trend estimation processes in providing a meaningful indicator of changes in labour market activity, and will provide further information in future releases if changes to these processes are required.

Looking forward to the June quarter 2020 Labour Account

The ABS has been monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on labour statistics and other economic information throughout the duration of the pandemic situation. Maintaining a consistency in methodology and approach to managing time series, where possible and appropriate, will be important in being able to analyse data sets prior to, during and after the COVID-19 period.

The ABS expects that the impact of COVID-19 on the June quarter 2020 Labour Account will be considerably greater than was seen in the March quarter 2020 estimates, particularly for data in the hours worked and labour income quadrants. The ABS will continue to provide additional analysis in future releases, to assist users in understanding changes in the labour market.

Further information on the Labour Account

For further information, email labour.statistics@abs.gov.au.

Data downloads

Table 1. Total all industries - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 2. Agriculture, forestry and fishing (A) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 3. Mining (B) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 4. Manufacturing (C) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 5. Electricity, gas, water and waste services (D) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 6. Construction (E) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 7. Wholesale trade (F) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 8. Retail trade (G) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 9. Accommodation and food services (H) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 10. Transport, postal and warehousing (I) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 11. Information media and telecommunications (J) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 12. Financial and insurance services (K) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 13. Rental, hiring and real estate services (L) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 14. Professional, scientific and technical services (M) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 15. Administrative and support services (N) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 16. Public administration and safety (O) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 17. Education and training (P) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 18. Health care and social assistance (Q) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 19. Arts and recreation services (R) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 20. Other services (S) - trend, seasonally adjusted and original

Table 21. Unbalanced: total all industries - original

Table 22. Quarterly revisions

History of changes

Show all

6/11/2020 - Amendments made to correct unit labels on two graphs - Hours actually worked and Total labour income by industry. There are no revisions to any time series or excel spreadsheets.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 6150.0.55.003.