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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
September 2020
Released
15/10/2020

Key statistics

Seasonally adjusted estimates for September 2020:

  • Unemployment rate increased to 6.9%.
  • Participation rate decreased to 64.8%.
  • Employment decreased to 12,571,900.
  • Employment to population ratio decreased to 60.3%.
  • Underemployment rate increased to 11.4%.
  • Monthly hours worked increased by 9 million hours.
Aug-20Sep-20Monthly changeMonthly change (%)Yearly changeYearly change (%)
Seasonally adjusted
Employed people12,601,50012,571,900-29,500-0.2%-358,400-2.8%
Unemployed people926,200937,40011,3001.2%228,10032.2%
Unemployment rate6.8%6.9%0.1 ptsna1.7 ptsna
Underemployment rate11.3%11.4%0.1 ptsna3.0 ptsna
Participation rate64.9%64.8%-0.1 ptsna-1.3 ptsna
Monthly hours worked in all jobs 1,680 million 1,688 million9 million0.5%-89 million-5.0%

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

Managing the impact of COVID-19 on labour force statistics

The ABS is continuing to take active steps to manage the impacts of COVID-19 on Labour Force statistics. For more information on recent developments, refer to the Rotation group analysis.

Survey response and timeline

The September Labour Force Survey was run in respect of the two weeks from Sunday 30 August to Saturday 12 September, and collected over the three weeks from Sunday 6 September to Saturday 26 September.

The following image provides a timeline of events from March to October showing LFS collection periods as well as Government announcements in response to this period. From 21st to 29th of March social distancing rules and additional shutdowns and/or restrictions were implemented including the shutdown of non-essential services beginning 22nd of March. Data was collected for the April LFS reference weeks 29th March to 11th April; collected 5th to 25th April during which the JobKeeper payment was announced
The following image provides a timeline of events from March to October showing LFS collection periods as well as Government announcements in response to this period. From 21st to 29th of March social distancing rules and additional shutdowns and/or restrictions were implemented including the shutdown of non-essential services beginning 22nd of March. Data was collected for the April LFS reference weeks 29th March to 11th April; collected 5th to 25th April during which the JobKeeper payment was announced 30th

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.

New ABS website and changes to Labour Force Survey publications

The ABS launched its new website on Monday 21 September 2020. As previously advised, as part of this move to a new ABS website the Labour Force Survey releases have been redesigned (see the New ABS website and changes to Labour Force Survey publications note for more information on the design and content). There are now two labour force releases (previously three) of monthly Labour Force Survey data:

  • Labour Force, Australia - which continues to be the headline release
  • Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - which contains all spreadsheets and pivot tables previously published in the monthly and quarterly detailed releases (see Labour Force, Australia, Detailed)

At all points during the transition abs.gov.au remains your official source of statistics. However, other URL's within the website have changed so bookmarks will need to be updated. Catalogue numbers also no longer appear in release titles, however you will still be able to search for content using catalogue numbers. For a short transition period, all releases will include a note indicating the catalogue number the release was previously published under.

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'.

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. As these obligations are gradually reinstated, 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.

Articles

This months Labour Force release includes additional analysis of hours worked, including for those people working zero hours for economic reasons (see Insights into hours worked).

Unemployment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in September 2020:

  • The unemployment rate increased 0.1 pts to 6.9% (1.7 pts higher than a year ago)
  • Unemployed people increased by 11,300 to 937,400 (and increased by 228,100 over the year to September 2020)
  • The youth unemployment rate increased 0.4 pts to 14.5% (and increased by 2.7 pts over the year to September 2020)
Download

Employment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in September 2020:

  • employment decreased by 29,500 people (0.2%) to 12,571,900 people
  • over the year to September 2020, employment decreased by 2.8% or 358,400 people

Underpinning this net decrease in the number of employed people are extensive flows of people into and out of employment around 400,000 people entered employment (i.e. they were employed in September but were not employed in August), while around 350,000 people left employment (i.e. they were employed in August but were not employed in September). This contrasts with the previous month, where around 400,000 people entered employment and around 400,000 people left employment.

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Full-time and part-time employment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in September 2020:

  • Full-time employment decreased by 20,100 to 8,540,300 people, and part-time employment decreased by 9,400 to 4,031,700 people
  • over the year to September 2020, full-time employment decreased by 301,700 people and part-time employment decreased by 56,700 people

The part-time share of employment was 32.1%, the same as 12 months ago.

 

Employment-to-population ratio

In seasonally adjusted terms, in September 2020:

  • the employment-to-population ratio decreased by 0.2 pts to 60.3%, and decreased by 2.4 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 September 2020, monthly hours worked in all jobs:

  • increased by 8.7 million hours (0.5%) to 1,688 million hours
  • decreased by 5.0% over the year, which is larger than the 2.8% decrease in employed people

See the article Insights into Hours worked for more.

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Participation

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

  • decreased by 0.1 pts to 64.8%, and decreased 1.3 pts over the year to September 2020
  • decreased by 0.1 pts for men (to 69.6%) and decreased by 0.1 pts for women (to 60.1%)
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Underemployment

In seasonally adjusted terms, in September 2020:

  • the underemployment rate increased by 0.1 pts to 11.4% (3.0 pts higher than a year ago)
  • the underutilisation rate increased by 0.2 pts to 18.3%
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States and territories

September 2020, Seasonally adjusted
New South WalesVictoriaQueenslandSouth AustraliaWestern AustraliaTasmaniaNorthern TerritoryAustralian Capital TerritoryAustralia
Employed persons4,028,2003,224,7002,518,000843,7001,352,800252,000125,500239,80012,571,900
Employed persons - monthly change0.1%-1.1%1.3%1.0%0.2%-1.0%-5.1%-0.3%-0.2%
Employment to population ratio60.7%58.8%60.4%58.0%63.2%56.4%66.7%70.0%60.3%
Employment to population ratio - monthly change0.0 pts-0.7 pts0.7 pts0.6 pts0.1 pts-0.6 pts-3.6 pts-0.2 pts-0.2 pts
Unemployment rate7.2%6.7%7.7%7.1%6.7%7.6%4.8%3.8%6.9%
Unemployment rate - monthly change0.5 pts-0.5 pts0.3 pts-1.0 pts-0.4 pts1.3 pts0.6 pts-0.2 pts0.1 pts
Underemployment rate10.2%14.9%10.7%11.1%9.3%10.8%6.4%6.7%11.4%
Underemployment rate - monthly change0.2 pts1.2 pts1.0 pts-0.3 pts-0.3 pts-1.1 pts-2.0 pts1.5 pts0.1 pts
Participation rate65.4%63.0%65.5%62.5%67.7%61.1%70.0%72.7%64.8%
Participation rate - monthly change0.4 pts-1.0 pts1.0 pts-0.1 pts-0.1 pts0.2 pts-3.3 pts-0.4 pts-0.1 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
August outgoing rotation groupSeptember incoming rotation groupSeptember outgoing rotation groupSeptember estimate (Original)
Employment to population ratio59.3%60.4%60.5%60.2%
Full-time employement to population ratio40.7%41.1%41.8%40.8%
Unemployment rate6.5%7.8%6.2%6.8%
Participation rate63.4%65.5%64.5%64.6%

States and territories

In addition to analysis across the entire sample, the ABS also undertake 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 June 2020, the incoming rotation group in Victoria had a higher unemployment to population ratio than the group it replaced, and had a higher unemployment to population ratio than the average over the matched sample. 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 the sample for the incoming rotation groups from June 2020 onwards. This has ensured that survey response has remained high, with a similar number of responding dwellings to the pre-COVID period.

The ABS has undertaken additional detailed sample decomposition analysis for the incoming rotation groups in April to September. Additional weighting treatments to account for a small increase in non-response bias continue to be applied and reviewed each month, resulting in some revisions to previously published estimates.

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 two stages, with additional spreadsheets published in Labour Force, Australia, Detailed one week after this first release. See the Survey output section of Labour Force, Australia methodology for more information.

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

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 6202.0.

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