This is not the latest release View the latest release

Labour Force, Australia

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

Reference period
July 2021
Released
19/08/2021

Key statistics

Seasonally adjusted estimates for July 2021:

  • Unemployment rate decreased to 4.6%.
  • Participation rate decreased to 66.0%.
  • Employment increased to 13,156,400.
  • Employment to population ratio decreased to 62.9%.
  • Underemployment rate increased to 8.3%.
  • Monthly hours worked decreased by 3 million hours.
Download
Jun-21Jul-21Monthly changeMonthly change (%)Yearly changeYearly change (%)
Seasonally adjusted
Employed people13,154,20013,156,4002,2000.0%676,6005.4%
Unemployed people679,100639,200-39,900-5.9%-364,900-36.3%
Unemployment rate4.9%4.6%-0.3 ptsna-2.8 ptsna
Underemployment rate7.9%8.3%0.4 ptsna-3.0 ptsna
Participation rate66.2%66.0%-0.2 ptsna1.3 ptsna
Monthly hours worked in all jobs 1,781 million 1,778 million-3 million-0.2%95 million5.7%

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

Hours worked

The ABS will continue to publish insights into hours worked, given the lockdowns and restrictions across Australia. This analysis provides insights into changes in total hours worked and also people working reduced or no hours.

Given the extent of changes around lockdowns, the ABS has also included data cubes EM2a and EM2b in today’s release. These data cubes are usually only released in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, but will also be released in the headline release over the coming months, to enable more detailed analysis of changes in hours worked and the reasons that people are working reduced or no hours. 

Understanding how COVID-19 support is reflected in Labour Force statistics

Over the course of the pandemic there has been a range of support provided by governments to people and businesses. These support programs have changed over time, which is important to consider when assessing changes in Labour Force statistics through the COVID period, including the extent to which people have lost their jobs or have reduced (or no) hours of work but remain employed. 

The current main government support payments are paid directly to people (including the COVID-19 Disaster Relief Payment and JobSeeker Payment) or directly to businesses (including the JobSaver Payment, which, unlike the JobKeeper wage subsidy, is not paid to businesses with an explicit payroll connection to specific employees). 

The ABS continues to categorise people as ‘employed’ or ‘not employed’ in the survey using the long-standing concepts and practices used in Labour Force statistics, and are not impacted or determined by whether a person or employing business is eligible or in receipt of government support.

The Labour Force Survey questionnaire, which has not changed during the COVID period, starts with two key questions that identify whether the respondents were 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 indicates that they DID paid work will be considered ‘employed’.

If they DIDN’T do any paid work (paid by their employer or business), 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 indicates that they DIDN’T have a job (that they were absent from) will be categorised as ‘not employed’ and either ‘unemployed’ or ‘not in the labour force’, depending on their responses to other questions (people can still be ‘unemployed’ or ‘not in the labour force’ while receiving the COVID-19 Disaster Payment or the JobSeeker Payment. To be categorised as ‘unemployed’ people must have not worked, be looking for work and available to start work). 

Whereas, anyone who indicates that they DID have a job (that they were absent from) will be considered ‘employed’ if they were away from work for less than 4 weeks, or paid by their employer for any part of the last four weeks. These are key factors in determining whether someone is employed, particularly during lockdown periods.

Improving the estimation of short-term non-residents in the Labour Account

Over the COVID period, there have been large reductions in short-term non-resident arrivals in Australia. These reductions are not reflected in Labour Force Survey employment estimates but are accounted for in Labour Account estimates of employment and jobs. Differences between the Labour Force Survey and Labour Account were outlined in the June 2021 Labour Force release.

Modelling employed short-term non-residents in the Labour Account

As noted in the March quarter Labour Account release, a model-based approach is needed to estimate the number of short-term/temporary non-residents who are employed (including the jobs they held, and the hours they worked) as there are no direct sources for this information.

Improvements to the model and revisions in the September quarter release

The ABS has reviewed the modelling approach used in the Labour Account and has identified some improved data sources and method enhancements. These will provide a more robust estimation of the number of short-term non-residents who are working, and the hours they worked.

The new model will be implemented into the Labour Account for the September quarter 2021, with revisions to quarterly and annual Labour Account series across all quadrants (i.e. People, Jobs, Hours and Payments). These will be published in Labour Account Australia, on 8 December 2021.

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 undertook an extensive annual review of its seasonally adjusted Labour Force series, prior to the release of April 2021 estimates.

Through this process static forward factors have been calculated for the next 12 months taking effect from the April 2021 release (and the release of May 2021 Labour Force, for the quarterly series).

Updates on hours worked statistics

Monthly hours worked in all jobs series were rebenchmarked in July 2021, through the standard annual process. The rebenchmarking resulted in minor revisions to all monthly hours worked in all jobs series. For more information regarding labour force rebenchmarking, refer to Rebenchmarking Labour Force Estimates.

The ABS will continue to publish insights into hours worked, given the lockdowns and restrictions across Australia. This analysis provides insights into changes in total hours worked and also people working reduced or no hours.

Given the extent of changes around lockdowns, the ABS has also included data cubes EM2a and EM2b in today’s release. These data cubes are usually only released in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, but will also be released in the headline release over the coming months, to enable more detailed analysis of changes in hours worked and the reasons that people are working reduced or no hours. 

The ABS has revised data in EM2a and EM2b to correct the categorisation of some people who reported 'Other reasons' who were previously inadvertently grouped into the 'Began, left or lost a job' category in our products. There are no other changes to these products.

Survey response and timeline

The July Labour Force Survey was run in respect of the two weeks from Sunday 4 July to Saturday 17 July, and collected over the period from Sunday 11 July to Saturday 31 July.

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.

Download
Reference and Enumeration Dates
PublicationStart of Reference WeekEnd of Reference WeekStart of EmunerationEnd of Enumeration
June 202130th May 202112th June 20216th June 202126th June 2021
July 20214th July 202117th July 202111th July 202131st July 2021
August 20211st August 202114th August 20218th August 202129th August 2021

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 a week earlier than originally advertised, 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 July 2021:

  • The unemployment rate decreased by 0.3 pts to 4.6%
  • The unemployment rate was 0.6 pts lower than March 2020
  • Unemployed people decreased by 39,900 to 639,200 
  • Unemployed people was 84,300 lower than March 2020
  • The youth unemployment rate remained at 10.2%
  • The youth unemployment rate was 1.4 pts lower than March 2020
Download

Employment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in July 2021:

  • Employment increased by 2,200 people (0.0%) to 13,156,400 people
  • Employment was 161,600 people (1.2%) 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 July 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 June but were employed in July), while around 550,000 people left employment (i.e. they were employed in June but were not employed in July). This contrasts with June 2021 where around 420,000 people entered employment and around 460,000 people left employment.

Download

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 June and July (based on the matched sample). It shows that:

  • 96% of people employed in June were also employed in July (with 1% moving to unemployment and 3% to not in the labour force)
  • 53% of people unemployed in June were also unemployed in July (with 23% moving to employment and 23% to not in the labour force)
  • 93% of people not in the labour force in June were also not in the labour force in July (with 5% moving to employment and 2% to unemployment)

    Flows in labour force status, June to July

    Gross flow diagram, June to July 2021

    Flows in labour force status, June to July

    Download

    Full-time and part-time employment

    In seasonally adjusted terms, in July 2021:

    • Full-time employment decreased by 4,200 to 9,012,600 people, and part-time employment increased by 6,400 to 4,143,800 people
    • The part-time share of employment was 31.5%, 0.3 pts lower than in March 2020

     

    Employment-to-population ratio

    In seasonally adjusted terms, in July 2021, the employment-to-population ratio:

    • Decreased less than 0.1 pts to 62.9%
    • Higher than March 2020 by 0.5 pts.

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

    Download

    Hours worked

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

    • ​​​​​Decreased by 3.1 million hours (0.2%) to 1,778 million hours
    • Increased 13.1 million hours (0.7%) from March 2020 

    See the article Insights into hours worked for more.

    Download

    Participation

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

    • Decreased by 0.2 pts to 66.0%

    • Decreased by 0.2 pts for men to 70.7% and decreased by 0.2 pts for women to 61.4%

    • Higher than March 2020 by 0.1 pts

    Download

    Underemployment

    In seasonally adjusted terms, in July 2021:

    • The underemployment rate increased by 0.4 pts to 8.3%
    • The underemployment rate was 0.5 pts lower than March 2020 
    • The underutilisation rate increased by 0.1 pts to 12.9%
    Download

    States and territories

    Download
    July 2021, Seasonally adjusted
    New South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern TerritoryAustralian Capital TerritoryAustralia
    Employed people4,118,4003,460,5002,654,700877,2001,410,900263,000129,400233,70013,156,400
    Employed people - monthly change-0.9%0.5%-0.2%1.2%0.5%0.3%2.6%0.6%0.0%
    Employment to population ratio62.0%63.5%63.1%60.0%65.4%58.5%68.0%67.8%62.9%
    Employment to population ratio - monthly change-0.6 pts0.4 pts-0.2 pts0.7 pts0.2 pts0.1 pts1.6 pts0.4 pts0.0 pts
    Unemployment rate4.5%4.5%5.2%4.7%4.6%4.5%4.6%4.3%4.6%
    Unemployment rate - monthly change-0.6 pts0.0 pts0.1 pts-0.7 pts-0.5 pts0.0 pts-0.2 pts-0.6 pts-0.3 pts
    Underemployment rate9.3%8.2%7.7%8.4%6.9%8.2%5.8%6.4%8.3%
    Underemployment rate - monthly change2.1 pts-1.9 pts0.7 pts0.5 pts-0.3 pts-0.6 pts0.7 pts0.8 pts0.4 pts
    Participation rate64.9%66.5%66.6%62.9%68.5%61.3%71.2%70.8%66.0%
    Participation rate - monthly change-1.0 pts0.4 pts-0.2 pts0.3 pts-0.2 pts0.2 pts1.5 pts-0.1 pts-0.2 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

    Download
    Incoming and outgoing rotation groups
    June outgoing rotation groupJuly incoming rotation groupJuly outgoing rotation groupJuly estimate (Original)
    Employment to population ratio63.1%63.5%63.1%62.9%
    Full-time employment to population ratio42.7%44.0%43.9%43.2%
    Unemployment rate5.1%4.6%4.2%4.6%
    Participation rate66.5%66.6%65.9%65.9%

    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 July 2021, the incoming rotation group in South Australia had a higher employment to population ratio and participation rate than the group it replaced. 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.