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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
May 2020
Released
18/06/2020

Key statistics

Seasonally adjusted estimates for May 2020:

  • Unemployment rate increased to 7.1%.
  • Participation rate decreased to 62.9%.
  • Employment decreased to 12,154,100.
  • Employment to population ratio decreased to 58.4%.
  • Underemployment rate decreased to 13.1%.
  • Monthly hours worked decreased to 1,605 million hours.
Apr-20May-20Monthly changeYearly change
Seasonally adjusted
Employed people12,381,80012,154,100-227,700 (-1.8%)-695,600 (-5.4%)
Unemployed people841,900927,60085,700 (10.2%)219,200 (30.9%)
Unemployment rate6.4%7.1%0.7 pts1.9 pts
Underemployment rate13.8%13.1%-0.7 pts4.5 pts
Participation rate63.6%62.9%-0.7 pts-3.2 pts
Monthly hours worked in all jobs1,617 million1,605 million-12 million (-0.7%)-158 million (-9.0%)

Estimates of changes 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

Survey reference and collection week timeline

The May Labour Force Survey was run in respect of the first two weeks of May (ie. Sunday 3 May to Saturday 16 May), and collected over the three weeks from Sunday 10 May to Saturday 30 May.

LFS reference and collection weeks and COVID-19 related changes and announcements

Survey response

Response remained high in May, with a similar level of response to April. Following analysis of the incoming rotation group in April, both the April and May incoming rotation groups have been given the standard influence in April and May estimates. For more information see the rotation group analysis.

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.

Continued suspension of trend estimates

Given the extent of change in Labour Force time series, the ABS has temporarily suspended trend series and moved to using forward factors for seasonal adjustment. All estimates within the commentary, including information for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, refer to seasonally adjusted data. For more information, please refer to Suspension of trend series and changes to seasonal adjustment during the COVID-19 period.

Trend estimates will also be suspended in the quarterly Labour Force data due for release 25 June 2020.

Quarterly population rebenchmarking

The ABS has revised the original Labour Force series for the previous 19 months to reflect the latest available preliminary and final estimates of Estimated Resident Population. This quarterly process ensures that the Labour Force series promptly reflects any change in population trends and minimises the size of revisions that can occur when the series are rebenchmarked following each Census of Population and Housing.

In response to COVID-19 related changes in travel, the ABS is now revising preliminary Net Overseas Migration estimates more frequently. Net Overseas Migration estimates are a component of population estimates, from which Labour Force benchmarks are produced. These revisions have been incorporated into the quarterly rebenchmarking revisions. For more information, please refer to Net Overseas Migration revisions in Labour Force benchmarks during COVID-19.

Further information can be found in the Rebenchmarking Labour Force Estimates article published in the February 2015 issue of Labour Force, Australia.

Treatment of people on JobKeeper, JobSeeker or stood down

People paid through the JobKeeper wage subsidy, in receipt of JobSeeker payments, or stood down by their employer are classified as follows in the Labour Force Survey. This approach:

  • is consistent with the long-standing concepts and practices used in the Labour Force Survey; and
  • has not resulted in any changes to the Labour Force Survey questionnaire.

The ABS will update this information if new scenarios emerge or the conditions of existing scenarios change over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. People paid through the JobKeeper wage subsidy: employed

The ABS expects that people who are paid through the JobKeeper scheme will answer the questions in a way that results in them being classified as employed, regardless of the hours they work (e.g. even if they are stood down). People paid through JobKeeper may work less hours, the same hours, or more hours, than usual.

Under the JobKeeper program, eligible businesses and not-for-profit organisations affected by COVID-19 can elect to receive a subsidy to support their employment of eligible employees. Some self-employed people are also eligible to receive the JobKeeper payment.

Employers will pay these employees a wage, within their existing employment relationship, supporting an ongoing attachment to a job.

2. People in receipt of the JobSeeker payment: it depends on their labour market activity

People who receive the JobSeeker or other similar government payments are not automatically classified as unemployed (just as those classified as unemployed will not necessarily be in receipt of a government payment) and how they are categorised depends on how they answer questions around labour market activity.

The JobSeeker payment is paid to people who are looking for work or are sick or injured and cannot undertake their usual work or study for a short time, and who meet the eligibility requirements. People can also receive the JobSeeker payment if they have a job, if they meet a low income test.

Recent changes to the JobSeeker program related to COVID-19 also meant that recipients did not have to meet the usual mutual obligation requirements, such as looking for work. Some of these obligations are gradually being reinstated from June onwards, and changes may lead to increases in active job search and an increase in the number of people classified as unemployed in future months.

To be classified as unemployed in Labour Force statistics, a person must:

  • have actively looked for full-time or part-time work in the last four weeks; and
  • be available for work in the reference week.

People who were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the reference week and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then are also classified as unemployed.

3. People not working any hours, including those who were stood down: it depends on their job attachment and pay, and potentially other labour market activity

A person will be classified as employed if they:

  • had taken any kind of paid leave;
  • were away from their job for any reason (e.g. they were stood down), and were paid for some part of the previous 4 weeks (which could include wages subsidised through the JobKeeper scheme); or
  • were away from their job for four weeks or less for any reason, without pay, but believe they still have a job to go back to (e.g. they were stood down, with no pay).

If a person is away from their job for four weeks or more without pay, or they believe they no longer have a job to be absent from, they will be classified as:

  • unemployed - if they have actively looked for work, and are available to start work; or
  • not in the labour force - if they have not looked for work and/or are not available to start work.

There will be a range of ways in which people will have been stood down without work as a result of COVID-19. Some may be stood down with pay, some through paid leave (e.g. long service leave, annual leave, etc) and some without pay. Some people will perceive that they still have a job (but just no hours at the moment), while others will consider they have lost their job. 

These differences are effectively captured using Labour Force Survey questions, which support the ABS to effectively categorise people and produce key measures of the labour market.

People stood down without pay from late March through to early May were away from their job for four weeks or more and therefore were no longer considered employed in May. This explains part of the further fall in employment in May.

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

Unemployment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in May 2020:

  • the unemployment rate increased by 0.7 pts to 7.1% (1.9 pts higher than a year ago)
  • unemployed people increased by 85,700 to 927,600 (and increased by 219,200 over the year to May 2020)
  • the youth unemployment rate increased by 2.0 pts to 16.1% (and increased by 4.1 pts over the year to May 2020)
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Employment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in May 2020:

  • employment decreased by 227,700 people (1.8%) to 12,154,100 people
  • over the year to May 2020, employment decreased by 5.4% or 695,600 people

Underpinning these net changes in the number of employed people are extensive flows of people into and out of employment. Around 700,000 people who were employed in April were not employed in May, while around 500,000 people who were not employed in April were employed in May. See the article People who lost a job or were stood down: Flows analysis.

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Full-time and part-time employment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in May 2020:

  • full-time employment decreased by 89,100 people to 8,540,000 people, and part-time employment decreased 138,600 to 3,614,100 people
  • over the year to May 2020, full-time employment decreased by 237,900 people and part-time employment decreased by 457,700 people

This change led to a decrease in the part-time share of employment over the past 12 months, from 30.3 to 29.7%.

Employment-to-population ratio

In seasonally adjusted terms, in May 2020:

  • the employment-to-population ratio decreased by 1.1 pts to 58.4%, and decreased by 4.2 pts from the same time last year

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

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Hours worked

In seasonally adjusted terms, in May 2020, monthly hours worked in all jobs:

  • decreased by 12 million hours (-0.7%) to 1,605 million hours
  • decreased by 9.0% over the year, which is higher than the 5.4% decrease in employed people

See the article Insights into Hours worked for more.

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Participation

In seasonally adjusted terms, in May 2020, the participation rate:

  • decreased by 0.7 pts to 62.9%, and decreased 3.2 pts over the year to May 2020
  • decreased by 0.8 pts for men (to 68.1%) and decreased by 0.6 pts for women (57.8%)
  • decreased by 0.8 pts to 75.3% for 15 to 64 year olds (the working age population). For 15 to 64 year old men, it was 80.1% and for 15 to 64 year old women it was 70.6%
  • decreased by 2.8 pts to 59.9% for 15 to 24 year olds
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Underemployment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in May 2020:

  • the underemployment rate decreased by 0.7 pts to 13.1% (4.5 pts higher than a year ago)
  • the underutilisation rate increased less than 0.1 pts to 20.2%
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States and territories

May 2020, Seasonally adjusted
New South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern TerritoryAustralian Capital TerritoryAustralia
Employed persons3,856,4003,247,1002,390,900806,1001,272,000238,700129,900227,50012,154,100
Employed persons - monthly change-1.1%-2.1%-1.2%-1.4%-2.3%-4.0%-1.6%-1.6%-1.8%
Employment to population ratio58.1%59.3%57.7%55.6%59.7%53.7%69.2%66.6%58.4%
Employment to population ratio - monthly change-0.7 pts-1.3 pts-0.7 pts-0.8 pts-1.4 pts-2.3 pts-1.1 pts-1.1 pts-1.1 pts
Unemployment rate6.4%6.9%7.9%7.9%8.1%6.4%7.4%4.1%7.1%
Unemployment rate - monthly change0.1 pts0.9 pts0.9 pts0.7 pts2.0 pts0.1 pts1.8 pts-0.1 pts0.7 pts
Underemployment rate13.5%15.2%11.8%13.1%12.1%14.6%10.3%5.7%13.1%
Underemployment rate - monthly change0.2 pts0.7 pts-1.1 pts-2.5 pts-2.3 pts-1.8 pts-0.0 pts-3.5pts-0.7 pts
Participation rate62.10%63.7%62.6%60.3%65.0%57.3%74.7%69.4%62.9%
Participation rate - monthly change-0.7 pts-0.8 pts-0.2 pts-0.4 pts-0.1 pts-2.3 pts0.2 pts-1.2 pts-0.7 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.

COVID-19 and the incoming rotation groups in April and May

With the suspension of face-to-face interviews late in March 2020, falls in response to the Labour Force were seen in April (around 1000 dwellings), and May (a further 250 dwellings). Given the fall in responses in the incoming rotation group in April, the ABS decided to reduce the influence of the incoming rotation group, as part of the standard survey estimation methods. The ABS has undertaken further analysis of the April incoming rotation group, and also the May incoming rotation group. Following this analysis, both incoming rotation groups have been given full weight in the May 2020 Labour Force release, following the application of an extra weighting treatment to account for a small degree of bias detected in the data, related to slightly higher than usual non-response.

Incoming and outgoing rotation groups

The incoming rotation group in May 2020 had:

  • a lower employment to population ratio than the group it replaced (59.3% in May 2020, compared to 59.5% in April 2020), and was higher than the sample as a whole (58.7%)
  • a lower full-time employment to population ratio than the group it replaced (41.1% in May 2020, compared to 41.6% in April 2020), and was higher than the sample as a whole (41.0%)
  • a higher unemployment rate than the group it replaced (7.2% in May 2020, compared to 5.9% in April 2020), and was higher than the sample as a whole (6.9%)
  • a higher participation rate than the group it replaced (63.8% in May 2020, compared to 63.3% in April 2020), and was higher than the sample as a whole (63.1%)

The outgoing rotation group in May 2020, that will be replaced by a new incoming rotation group in June 2020, had:

  • a lower employment to population ratio in May 2020 (58.5%) than the sample as a whole (58.7%)
  • a higher full-time employment to population ratio in May 2020 (41.1%) than the sample as a whole (41.0%)
  • a lower unemployment rate in May 2020 (6.6%) than the sample as a whole (6.9%)
  • a lower participation rate in May 2020 (62.6%) than the sample as a whole (63.1%)

The importance of 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.

Contribution from sample components to estimates

Data downloads

Labour Force Survey results are released in two stages, with data not included in this first release included in the second monthly release Labour Force, Australia, DetailedThis second release includes both monthly and quarterly data. See the Survey output section of Labour Force, Australia methodology.

Labour force status

Table 1. Labour force status by Sex, Australia - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 4. Labour force status by Sex, New South Wales - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 5. Labour force status by Sex, Victoria - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 6. Labour force status by Sex, Queensland - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 7. Labour force status by Sex, South Australia - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 8. Labour force status by Sex, Western Australia - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 9. Labour force status by Sex, Tasmania - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 10. Labour force status by Sex, Northern Territory - Trend and Original

Table 10a. Labour force status by Sex, Northern Territory - Seasonally adjusted

Table 11. Labour force status by Sex, Australian Capital Territory - Trend and Original

Table 11a. Labour force status by Sex, Australian Capital Territory - Seasonally adjusted

Table 12. Labour force status by Sex, State and Territory - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 12a. Labour force status by Sex, Territory - Seasonally adjusted

Table 13. Labour force status for 15-24 year olds by Sex - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 15. Labour force status for 15-24 year olds by Educational attendance (full-time) and Sex

Table 16. Labour force status for 15-24 year olds by State, Territory and Educational attendance (full-time)

Table 17. Labour force status for 15-19 year olds by Sex - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 18. Labour force status for 15-64 year olds by Sex - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Hours worked

Table 19. Monthly hours worked in all jobs by Employed full-time, part-time and Sex and by State and Territory - Trend and Seasonally adjusted

Table 19a. Monthly hours worked in all jobs by Employed full-time, part-time and Sex and Territory - Seasonally adjusted

Table 21. Quarterly hours worked in all jobs by Market and Non-market sector - Seasonally adjusted

Underemployment and underutilisation

Table 22. Underutilised persons by Age and Sex - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 23. Underutilised persons by State and Territory and Sex - Trend, Seasonally adjusted and Original

Table 23a. Underutilised persons by Territory and Sex - Seasonally adjusted

Table 24. Underutilised persons by Age and Sex (expanded analytical series)

Table 25. Underutilised persons by State, Territory and Sex (expanded analytical series)

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

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