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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
November 2021
Released
16/12/2021

Key statistics

Seasonally adjusted estimates for November 2021:

  • Unemployment rate decreased to 4.6%.
  • Participation rate increased to 66.1%.
  • Employment increased to 13,177,300.
  • Employment to population ratio increased to 63.0%.
  • Underemployment rate decreased to 7.5%.
  • Monthly hours worked increased by 77 million hours.
Oct-2021Nov-2021Monthly changeMonthly change (%)Yearly changeYearly change (%)
Seasonally adjusted
Employed people12,811,10013,177,300366,1002.9%348,5002.7%
Unemployed people706,000636,700-69,400-9.8%-304,200-32.3%
Unemployment rate5.2%4.6%-0.6 ptsna-2.2 ptsna
Underemployment rate9.5%7.5%-2.0 ptsna-1.9 ptsna
Participation rate64.6%66.1%1.4 ptsna0.0 ptsna
Monthly hours worked in all jobs 1,724 million 1,801 million77 million4.5%47 million2.7%

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 - insights and additional data

The ABS is continuing to publish insights into hours worked each month. 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. 

Quarterly rebenchmarking of labour force statistics

The ABS has revised the original Labour Force series from April 2020 to reflect the latest available preliminary and final estimates of the Estimated Resident Population. This quarterly process ensures that the Labour Force series promptly reflect 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 has been 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'.

The usual resident civilian population in September 2021 was revised down by around 0.11% (around 23,600 people).

Revisions to original series also result in revisions to seasonally adjusted series.

Unemployment and job loss in Australia during the COVID-19 period

There are many ways to analyse unemployment and the loss of work using ABS Labour Force Survey statistics. Given the unusual labour market impacts and recovery during the pandemic, the ABS has been highlighting changes in hours worked (including people working reduced or no hours), underemployment, changes in employment and unemployment, and changes in labour force participation.

There have been a range of composite measures produced from ABS Labour Force data to explore aggregate changes in the labour market during the pandemic. For example, the Commonwealth Treasury has produced a composite measure, referred to as the 'effective unemployment rate', which includes unemployed people, plus any unseasonal increase in employed people who still had a job but worked zero hours for 'economic' or 'other reasons', plus the net change in people in the labour force (compared with a fixed base period), as a proportion of the labour force in the fixed base period. When calculating the effective unemployment rate for Australia, Commonwealth Treasury are currently using May 2021 as the base month, which was prior to the lockdowns related to the Delta variant.

In addition to considering net changes in Labour Force populations (which can be found in Time series spreadsheet Table 1 of Labour Force, Australia), the ABS also produces information on the underlying components of this net change - the flows into and out of the labour force. Information on these flows is available, in original terms, in datacube GM1.

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 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.

Over the pandemic, falls in employment during lockdown periods have tended to increase as lockdowns have extended beyond 4 weeks. At that point, people who were temporarily absent from work and not paid by their employer for any part of the last four weeks are no longer considered to be ‘employed’ and will instead be either ‘unemployed’ or ‘not in the labour force’, depending on their responses to other questions. This is regardless of whether they still have an attachment to their job. It is also important to note that during lockdowns many people leaving employment will also leave the labour force entirely, given the challenges in actively look for work and being available for work.

A spotlight on changes in job attachment during the pandemic is included in this release.

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).

Survey response and timeline

The November Labour Force Survey was run in respect of the two weeks from Sunday 31 October to Saturday 13 November, and collected over the period from Sunday 7 November to Saturday 27 November.

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.

Reference and Enumeration Dates
PublicationStart of Reference WeekEnd of Reference WeekStart of EmunerationEnd of Enumeration
October 202126th September 20219th October 20213th October 202123th October 2021
November 202131st October 202113th November 20217th November 202127th November 2021
December 202128th November 202111th December 20215th December 202123rd December 2021
January 20222nd January 202215th January 20229th January 202229th January 2022
February 202230th January 202212th February 20226th February 202226th February 2022
March 202227th February 202212th March 20226th March 202226th March 2022

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, on the 23 December 2021 (see Microdata: Longitudinal Labour Force, Australia).

Unemployment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in November 2021:

  • The unemployment rate decreased by 0.6 pts to 4.6%
  • The unemployment rate was 0.7 pts below March 2020
  • Unemployed people decreased by 69,400 to 636,700 
  • Unemployed people was 86,600 lower than March 2020
  • The youth unemployment rate decreased by 2.2 pts to 10.9%
  • The youth unemployment rate was 0.6 pts lower than March 2020

Employment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in November 2021:

  • Employment increased by 366,100 people (2.9%) to 13,177,300 people
  • Employment was 181,800 people (1.4%) 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 November 2021 the net change in the number of employed people is the result of around 835,000 people entered employment (i.e. they were not employed in October but were employed in November), while around 400,000 people left employment (i.e. they were employed in October but were not employed in November). This contrasts with October 2021 where around 540,000 people entered employment and around 540,000 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 October and November (based on the matched sample). It shows that:

  • 97% of people employed in October were also employed in November (with 1% moving to unemployment and 2% to not in the labour force)
  • 43% of people unemployed in October were also unemployed in November (with 40% moving to employment and 18% to not in the labour force)
  • 90% of people not in the labour force in October were also not in the labour force in November (with 8% moving to employment and 3% to unemployment)


 

    Flows in labour force status, October to November

    This diagram shows the proportion of people moving between employment, unemployment and not in the labour force between October and November (based on the matched sample).

    Flows in labour force status, October to November

    This diagram shows the proportion of people moving between employment, unemployment and not in the labour force between October and November (based on the matched sample). It shows that:

    - 97% of people employed in October were also employed in November (with 1% moving to unemployment and 2% to not in the labour force)
    - 43% of people unemployed in October were also unemployed in November (with 40% moving to employment and 18% to not in the labour force)
    - 90% of people not in the labour force in October were also not in the labour force in November (with 8% moving to employment and 3% to unemployment)

    Full-time and part-time employment

    In seasonally adjusted terms, in November 2021:

    • Full-time employment increased by 128,300 to 9,052,900 people, and part-time employment increased by 237,800 to 4,124,400 people
    • The part-time share of employment was 31.3%, 0.5 pts lower than in March 2020

     

    Employment-to-population ratio

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

    • Increased by 1.8 pts to 63.0%
    • Higher than March 2020 by 0.6 pts

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

    Hours worked

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

    • ​​​​​Increased by 76.7 million hours (4.5%) to 1,801 million hours
    • Increased by 35.7 million hours (2.0%) from March 2020 

    See the article Insights into hours worked for more.

    Participation

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

    • Increased by 1.4 pts to 66.1%

    • Increased by 1.2 pts for men to 70.7% and increased by 1.6 pts to 61.6% for women

    • Higher than March 2020 by 0.2 pts

    Underemployment

    In seasonally adjusted terms, in November 2021:

    • The underemployment rate decreased by 2.0 pts to 7.5%
    • The underemployment rate was 1.3 pts lower than March 2020 
    • The underutilisation rate decreased by 2.6 pts to 12.1%

    States and territories

    November 2021, Seasonally adjusted
    New South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern TerritoryAustralian Capital TerritoryAustralia
    Employed people4,127,7003,446,6002,660,100884,5001,444,000261,500129,900227,90013,177,300
    Employed people - monthly change4.6%4.3%0.5%1.2%1.6%0.7%-1.8%3.6%2.9%
    Employment to population ratio62.0%63.6%63.0%60.5%66.8%58.3%68.5%66.3%63.0%
    Employment to population ratio - monthly change2.7 pts2.7 pts0.3 pts0.7 pts1.0 pts0.4 pts-1.2 pts2.3 pts1.8 pts
    Unemployment rate4.6%4.7%4.8%4.6%3.8%5.1%4.4%3.8%4.6%
    Unemployment rate - monthly change-0.8 pts-0.9 pts-0.4 pts-0.7 pts-0.1 pts0.0 pts0.5 pts-2.8 pts-0.6 pts
    Underemployment rate7.4%7.3%7.9%8.1%6.6%8.4%5.4%7.2%7.5%
    Underemployment rate - monthly change-3.2 pts-4.0 pts0.0 pts-0.1 pts0.3 pts0.4 pts-1.2 pts-1.0 pts-2.0 pts
    Participation rate64.9%66.8%66.2%63.5%69.4%61.4%71.6%68.9%66.1%
    Participation rate - monthly change2.3 pts2.2 pts0.1 pts0.2 pts1.0 pts0.4 pts-0.9 pts0.5 pts1.4 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
    October outgoing rotation groupNovember incoming rotation groupNovember outgoing rotation groupNovember estimate (Original)
    Employment to population ratio58.8%64.6%62.7%63.3%
    Full-time employment to population ratio40.0%44.8%42.3%43.4%
    Unemployment rate5.4%4.2%4.3%4.3%
    Participation rate62.2%67.4%65.4%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 November 2021, the incoming rotation group in Northern Territory had a lower employment-to-population ratio and population share than the group it replaced. These ratios of the incoming rotation group in Northern Territory were the lowest among all the rotation groups. 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.

    In response to the data collection challenges presented by lockdowns in South East Australia related to the COVID-19 Delta strain, the ABS boosted the size of the sample for the incoming rotation group in New South Wales in September 2021, and in New South Wales and Victoria in October and November 2021. This has ensured that survey response has remained at a similar level to the pre-COVID period. The incoming rotation groups for December 2021 and January 2022 will also be boosted to ensure a comparable level of responding households.

    Between April and September 2020, and in September and October 2021, additional weighting treatments were used to effectively account for a slightly higher level of non-response. No such treatment was required for November 2021.

    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

    Changes to Excel file format on the ABS website

    In line with updating to more recent technology formats, the ABS will progressively transition to releasing Excel files in the .XLSX format. This means that timeseries spreadsheets in the suite of labour statistics releases will be progressively upgraded from .XLS files to .XLSX files.

    While this change will improve usability, it may also require changes to automated macros or similar programs that users may have in place that call on the current file extension format.

    For Labour Force products, this change will take effect from the release of November data on 16 December 2021 and for the release of detailed data on 23 December 2021. Previously released data will not change.

    Changes will be reflected in other labour statistics from the following dates:

    • Job Vacancies, to be released on 12 January 2022
    • Employee Earnings and Hours, to be released on 19 January 2022
    • Average Weekly Earnings, to be released on 24 February 2022
    • Labour Account, to be released on 9 March 2022
    • Industrial Disputes, to be released on 10 March 2022

    Some labour statistics, such as Weekly Payroll Jobs and Wages in Australia, already publish Excel data in .XLSX format. No changes will be required for those releases.

    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


     

    Data Explorer datasets

    Caution: Data in the Data Explorer is currently released after the 11:30am release on the ABS website. Please check the time period when using Data Explorer.

    For information on Data Explorer and how it works, see the Data Explorer user guide.

    Labour force status by Sex, State and Territory - Number of people employed, unemployed and not in the labour force, monthly, February 1978 and onwards

    Article archive

    Previous catalogue number

    This release previously used catalogue number 6202.0.