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Labour Force, Australia

Headline estimates of employment, unemployment, underemployment, participation and hours worked from the monthly Labour Force Survey

Reference period
April 2021
Released
20/05/2021

Key statistics

Seasonally adjusted estimates for April 2021:

  • Unemployment rate decreased to 5.5%.
  • Participation rate decreased to 66.0%.
  • Employment decreased to 13,040,400.
  • Employment to population ratio decreased to 62.3%.
  • Underemployment rate decreased to 7.8%.
  • Monthly hours worked decreased by 13 million hours.
Mar-21Apr-21Monthly changeMonthly change (%)Yearly changeYearly change (%)
Seasonally adjusted
Employed people13,071,00013,040,400-30,600-0.2%637,9005.1%
Unemployed people789,900756,200-33,600-4.3%-89,100-10.5%
Unemployment rate5.7%5.5%-0.2 ptsna-0.9 ptsna
Underemployment rate8.0%7.8%-0.2 ptsna-5.9 ptsna
Participation rate66.3%66.0%-0.3 ptsna2.4 ptsna
Monthly hours worked in all jobs 1,806 million 1,793 million-13 million-0.7%200 million12.5%

Estimates of changes throughout this release are calculated using un-rounded level estimates and may be different from, but are more accurate than, movements obtained from the rounded level estimates.

Survey impacts and changes

How the end of JobKeeper will be reflected in April and May Labour Force statistics

The end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy on 28 March 2021 was expected to result in some people losing their jobs or changing jobs, and reflected in Labour Force statistics for April and May 2021. The reference period for the April survey was 4-17 April, entirely after the end of JobKeeper.

However, analysis by the ABS of changes in employment and hours between March and April did not identify a clear aggregate impact from the end of JobKeeper. There were not large changes in the indicators that the ABS has been highlighting throughout the COVID period (eg. people working reduced or zero hours for economic reasons and flows out of employment across a broad range of population groups).

Some of the underlying movements in the labour market may include some people leaving employment at the end of JobKeeper, even if they did not result in a large discernible impact at the aggregate level. However, the underlying movements also appear to show signs of the usual month-to-month variation in the labour market and some larger than usual seasonal changes (similar to those in January 2021, particularly for hours worked).

In April, there were a range of scenarios for people who were in Job-Keeper supported jobs at the end of the program. Some people may have continued in their job beyond the end of March, some may have changed jobs, and others may have lost their job (and have no job).

The ABS categorises people as ‘employed’ or ‘not employed’ according the long-standing concepts and practices used in Labour Force statistics.

The Labour Force Survey questionnaire, which has not changed during the COVID period to avoid introducing measurement effects, does not specifically ask respondents whether they were supported by JobKeeper. The questionnaire starts with two key questions that identify whether the respondents were either employed:

  • Did you do any work at all in a job, business or farm last week?
  • Did you have a job, business or farm that you were away from because of holidays, sickness or any other reasons?

Anyone who indicated in April that they DID paid work after JobKeeper will have been considered ‘employed’. This could reflect that they remained in and were paid in their previously JobKeeper-supported job, or that they changed jobs.

If they DIDN’T do any paid work in April, the second question will then ascertain whether they still had a job but didn’t do any work because they were temporarily away from work.

Anyone who indicated that they DIDN’T have a job (that they were absent from) will have been categorised as ‘not employed’ (and either ‘unemployed’ or ‘not in the labour force’, depending on their responses to other questions).

Whereas, anyone who indicated that they DID have a job (that they were absent from) will have been considered ‘employed’ if they were away from work for less than 4 weeks, or paid for any part of the last four weeks. For people who were previously in JobKeeper-supported jobs, if they indicated that they still had a job in April and met these conditions, they would have been considered ‘employed’ in April. Some of these people could then potentially be ‘not employed’ in May, if they were away for 4 weeks or longer and were not paid in the previous 4 weeks.

Therefore, a key factor is whether people who were in JobKeeper-supported jobs, but who no longer had paid work, considered that they still had a job in April.

Seasonal adjustment and trend estimates

In the April 2020 Labour Force release, the ABS advised that the method used to produce seasonally adjusted estimates would be changed from the ‘concurrent’ method to the ‘forward factors’ method, during the COVID-19 period. The forward factors approach is better suited to managing large movements at the end point of series and ensures that large movements do not have a disproportionate influence on the seasonal factors.

Given the large movements in the labour market during the COVID-19 period and the continuing use of a forward factors approach to seasonal adjustment, the ABS has undertaken an extensive annual review of its seasonally adjusted Labour Force series.

This review follows similar reviews that are progressively being undertaken across the ABS economic statistics program. The Labour Force review identified a range of time series treatments to ensure that the seasonal adjustment process continues to be less influenced by the large month-to-month movements over the past year, and more informed by seasonality before the COVID period. Revisions to most seasonally adjusted series are therefore relatively minor, but larger than would be observed through the use of concurrent seasonal adjustment (which was used prior to the COVID period, with revisions progressively made each month).

Static forward factors for the next 12 months have been calculated through this annual process and have been used in the April 2021 release.

Survey response and timeline

The April Labour Force Survey was run in respect of the two weeks from Sunday 4 April to Saturday 17 April, and collected over the period from Sunday 11 April to Saturday 1 May.

    M2104 COVID timeline
    The following image provides a timeline of events from March 2020 to April 2021 showing LFS collection periods, headline results as well as COVID-related community and business changes and announcements.

    The ABS would like to thank Australians for their continued support in responding to our surveys during such a difficult time, given how critically important this information is.

    October 2021 Labour Force statistics will be released on 11 November

    In Census years, the collection and reference weeks of the Labour Force Survey may be brought forward slightly to minimise the overlap with the Post Census Review (also referred to as the Census Post Enumeration Survey). The October 2021 survey will start enumeration on Sunday 3 October, slightly earlier than the Sunday between the 5th and 11th, as stated in the Methodology.

    As a result, October 2021 Labour Force statistics will also be released earlier, on 11 November, rather than 18 November.

    Articles and other information

    This months Labour Force release includes:

    For a list of previously published LFS articles, see the Article archive.

    Additional spreadsheets and pivot tables are published in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed one week after this release, while longitudinal labour force microdata are released in the ABS DataLab, one day after the detailed release (see Microdata: Longitudinal Labour Force, Australia).

    Unemployment

    In seasonally adjusted terms, in April 2021:

    • The unemployment rate decreased 0.2 pts to 5.5%
    • The unemployment rate was 0.9 pts lower than April 2020, and 0.2 pts higher than March 2020
    • Unemployed people decreased by 33,600 to 756,200
    • Unemployed people decreased by 89,100 from April 2020 and was 32,600 higher than March 2020
    • The youth unemployment rate decreased 1.1 pts to 10.6%
    • Youth unemployment was 3.4 pts lower than April 2020, and 1.0 pts lower than March 2020

    Employment

    In seasonally adjusted terms, in April 2021:

    • Employment decreased by 30,600 people (0.2%) to 13,040,400 people
    • Over the year to April 2021, employment increased by 637,900 people (5.1%)
    • Employment was 45,900 people (0.4%) higher than March 2020

    Flows into and out of employment

    Flows into and out of employment are extensive and are based on the net matched sample of original employment growth between two consecutive months (around 80% of the sample). The (net) sum of the inflows and outflows does not necessarily equal the 'net' employment growth.

    For April 2021 the net increase in the number of employed people is the result of around 500,000 people entered employment (i.e. they were not employed in March but were employed in April), while around 480,000 people left employment (i.e. they were employed in March but were not employed in April). This contrasts with March 2021 where around 470,000 people entered employment and around 420,000 people left employment.

    Note: As the inflows and outflows analysis is based on the matched sample (around 80% of the sample), and the original employment growth is based on the entire sample and the latest months weight, the (net) sum of the inflows and outflows does not necessarily equal the 'net' employment growth.

    The following diagram shows the proportion of people moving between employment, unemployment and not in the labour force between March and April (based on the matched sample). It shows that:

    • 96% of people employed in March were also employed in April (with 1% moving to unemployment and 3% to not in the labour force)
    • 57% of people unemployed in March were also unemployed in April (with 22% moving to employment and 21% to not in the labour force)
    • 93% of people not in the labour force in March were also not in the labour force in April (with 5% moving to employment and 2% to unemployment)

      Flows in labour force status, March to April

      flowdiagram

      Flows in labour force status, March to April

      Full-time and part-time employment

      In seasonally adjusted terms, in April 2021:

      • Full-time employment increased by 33,800 to 8,889,500 people, and part-time employment decreased by 64,400 to 4,150,900 people
      • Over the year to April 2021, full-time employment increased by 249,600 people and part-time employment increased by 388,300 people
      • Since March 2020, full-time employment increased by 24,600 people and part-time employment increased by 21,300 people 

      • The part-time share of employment was 31.8%, the same as March 2020, and 1.5 pts higher than April 2020 

      A discussion of how to interpret estimates of full-time and part-time employment can be found in Understanding full-time and part-time work.

      Employment-to-population ratio

      In seasonally adjusted terms, in April 2021:

      • Decreased by 0.2 pts to 62.3%
      • Increased by 2.8 pts from April 2020, and is less than 0.1 pts below March 2020

      The employment-to-population ratio provides a measure of employment relative to the size of the population.

      Hours worked

      In seasonally adjusted terms, in April 2021, monthly hours worked in all jobs :

      • ​​​​​Decreased 13 million hours (0.7%) to 1,793 million hours from 1,806 million hours in March 2021
      • Increased by 12.5% over the year, which was larger than the 5.1% increase in employed people
      • Increased 31 million hours (1.8%) from March 2020 

      See the article Insights into hours worked for more.

      Participation

      In seasonally adjusted terms, in April 2021, the participation rate:

      • Decreased 0.3 pts to 66.0%
      • Decreased by 0.1 pts for men (to 70.8%) and decreased 0.5 pts for women (to 61.3%)
      • Increased 2.4 pts since April 2020, and was 0.1 pts higher than March 2020

      Underemployment

      In seasonally adjusted terms, in April 2021:

      • The underemployment rate decreased by 0.2 pts to 7.8% from March 2021
      • The underemployment rate was 5.9 pts lower than April 2020, and 1.0 pts lower than March 2020 
      • The underutilisation rate decreased by 0.4 pts to 13.3% from March 2021

      States and territories

      April 2021, Seasonally adjusted
      New South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern TerritoryAustralian Capital TerritoryAustralia
      Employed people4,093,5003,446,5002,614,600864,2001,391,800258,200130,800238,10013,040,400
      Employed people - monthly change-0.9%0.1%-0.3%1.8%-1.0%-0.9%1.4%1.4%-0.2%
      Employment to population ratio61.6%62.9%62.3%59.2%64.6%57.5%69.3%69.3%62.3%
      Employment to population ratio - monthly change-0.6 pts0.1 pts-0.2 pts1.0 pts-0.7 pts-0.6 pts0.9 pts0.8 pts-0.2 pts
      Unemployment rate5.5%5.5%6.1%5.7%4.9%6.2%3.8%3.4%5.5%
      Unemployment rate - monthly change0.0 pts-0.6 pts0.1 pts-0.7 pts-0.1 pts0.2 pts-1.8 pts-0.1 pts-0.2 pts
      Underemployment rate7.6%7.7%8.5%8.3%7.1%8.6%5.2%5.6%7.8%
      Underemployment rate - monthly change-0.3 pts-0.2 pts-0.1 pts-0.3 pts-0.3 pts-0.8 pts0.0 pts0.8 pts-0.2 pts
      Participation rate65.2%66.5%66.4%62.8%68.0%61.3%72.0%71.7%66.0%
      Participation rate - monthly change-0.6 pts-0.4 pts-0.2 pts0.6 pts-0.8 pts-0.5 pts-0.5 pts0.8 pts-0.3 pts

      Rotation group analysis

      Sample composition and rotation

      The Labour Force Survey sample can be thought of as comprising eight sub-samples (rotation groups), with each sub-sample remaining in the survey for eight months, and one group "rotating out" each month and being replaced by a new group "rotating in". As seven-eighths of the sample are common from one month to the next, changes in the estimates reflect real changes in the labour market, rather than changes in the sample. The replacement sample is generally selected from the same geographic areas as the outgoing one, as part of a representative sampling approach.

      The sample comprises three components:

      • the matched common sample (people who responded in both the current month and previous month)
      • the unmatched common sample (people who responded in the current month but who did not respond in the previous month, or vice versa)
      • the incoming rotation group (replacing people who rotated out)

      The matched common sample describes the change observed for the same respondents in the current and previous month, 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 they reflect different households and people. The design of the survey, including the weighting and estimation processes, ensures that these differences are generally relatively minor and do not affect the representativeness of the survey and its estimates. Monthly estimates are designed to be representative, regardless of the relative contribution of the three components of the sample.

      The contributions of the three sample components to the original estimates of employed, unemployed and not in the labour force are in the Contribution from sample components to estimates spreadsheet. 

      Estimates for the incoming and outgoing rotation groups

      Incoming and outgoing rotation groups
      March outgoing rotation groupApril incoming rotation groupApril outgoing rotation groupApril estimate (Original)
      Employment to population ratio63.3%62.4%63.3%62.4%
      Full-time employment to population ratio41.9%42.2%43.6%42.3%
      Unemployment rate5.7%5.9%4.9%5.5%
      Participation rate67.1%66.4%66.6%66.1%

      States and territories

      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 April 2021, the incoming rotation group in New South Wales and Queensland had a lower employment to population ratio than the group it replaced, but was more similar to the rest of the sample in April. As with any notable month-to-month movement of this nature in state and territory estimates, the ABS recommends exercising a degree of caution in interpreting short-term changes.

      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.

      Managing COVID-19 impacts on the incoming rotation groups

      In response to COVID-19 and the suspension of face-to-face interviewing, the ABS boosted the size of sample for the incoming rotation groups from June to December 2020 to ensure response level were around the same as pre-COVID-19 rotation groups. This has ensured a comparable level of fully responding households to the pre-COVID period. 

      Between April and September 2020 additional weighting treatments were used to effectively account for a slightly higher level of non-response. No such treatment was required after September, with the response patterns returning close to the pre-COVID period.

      Comparability with seasonally adjusted data

      The gross flows and rotation group data are in original terms only, and are included to provide additional information on the month-to-month movements. They have a considerable level of inherent sampling variability, which is specifically adjusted for in the seasonally adjusted series.

      While trend data usually provides the best measure of the underlying behaviour of the labour market, in times of large changes in the labour market, seasonally adjusted data provides a better estimate of the most recent months. The ABS has temporarily suspended the trend series until labour market indicators become more stable, see Suspension of trend series and changes to seasonal adjustment during the COVID-19 period.

      Contribution from sample components to estimates

      Data downloads

      Labour Force Survey results are released in three stages.

      1. Spreadsheets of the headline indicators are published in this release
      2. Additional, more detailed spreadsheets and pivot tables are published in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed one week after this first release
      3. Longitudinal labour force microdata are released in the ABS DataLab on a monthly basis, one day after the detailed release (see Microdata: Longitudinal Labour Force, Australia)

      See the Survey output section of Labour Force, Australia methodology for more information.

      Labour Force status

      Data files

      Hours worked

      Data files

      Underemployment and underutilisation

      Data files

      Flows into and out of employment

      GM1 - Labour force status and Gross changes (flows) by Age, Sex, State and Territory, February 1991 onwards

      All time series spreadsheets

      All time series spreadsheets

      Article archive

      Previous catalogue number

      This release previously used catalogue number 6202.0.