Australia’s real unemployment rate is higher than you think – and that’s a worry

Over 2.6 million Australians were unemployed or under-employed in May

That’s 20% of the workforce – much higher than the official ABS figures and this is a worry for our economy and in turn our property markets. f size - job employment work career look find search

The Roy Morgan real unemployment figures are always substantially higher than the ABS estimate

Roy Morgan suggests that Australia’s real unemployment for May was 9.8% (1.284 million Australians looking for work).

In addition 1.338 million Australians were under-employed in May (10.2% of the workforce).

This is a total of 2.622 million Australians (20% of the workforce) looking for work or looking for more work (it’s all in the definition of “unemployed” isn’t it?)

Key Findings:

  • In May the total Australian workforce was 13,074,000 (up 291,000 in 12 months) and employment grew to 11,790,000 (up 376,000);  
  • However the increase in employment was almost entirely driven by a large increase in part-time employment which rose 346,000 to 4,238,000 while full-time employment rose a modest 30,000 to 7,552,000;
  • Real unemployment is at 9.8%, down 0.9% from a year ago but under-employment is up 2.8% to 10.2% over the same period. The rise in under-employment is a direct consequence of the increasing proportion of part-time employment at the expense of full-time jobs;
  • The total of 2.622 million Australians unemployed or under-employed is the 20th straight month more than 2 million Australians have been looking for work or looking for more work, and only the fourth time this figure has exceeded 2.6 million Australians.

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment - May 2017 (20.0%)
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2005 – May 2017. Average monthly interviews 4,000.

Gary Morgan, Executive Chairman, Roy Morgan Research, says Australia’s 2.6 million unemployed and under-employed need policy reforms implemented now rather than in three years:

“The Australian economy is generating jobs – a total of 376,000 over the last year. However most of these jobs are part-time (346,000) rather than full-time (30,000) and this contributes to a growing problem of under-employment which has grown by 391,000 over the same time period. job employment australia

“Unfortunately any increase to the minimum wage above inflation and the over award payments (weekend and public holiday penalty rates) means there is no incentive for employers of unskilled staff such as in retail and hospitality businesses to open for additional hours or take on more staff.

“For this reason last week’s Fair Work Commission’s decisions to increase the minimum wage by $22 per week (+3.3%) and partly defer cuts to Sunday penalty rates over three years instead of now have dealt a significant blow to the prospect of more jobs for Australia’s unemployed and under-employed.

“Australia’s 2.622 million unemployed and under-employed are looking for work today. The Federal Government’s need to create jobs and generate GDP growth will not happen without major industrial reforms – the current weakness in GDP growth (0.3% in March Quarter) and Roy Morgan May Business Confidence falling 2.4% to 113.8 is not good news.”

*The ‘under-employed’ are those people who are in part-time work or consultants who are looking for more work. (Unfortunately the ABS does not release this figure in their monthly unemployment survey results).


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Michael is a director of Metropole Property Strategists who help their clients grow, protect and pass on their wealth through independent, unbiased property advice and advocacy. He's once again been voted Australia's leading property investment adviser and one of Australia's 50 most influential Thought Leaders. His opinions are regularly featured in the media. Visit

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