Over 2.5 million Australians looking for work entering 2020


How many people are really unemployed or underemployed in Australia?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us unemployment fell at the end of last year to 5.1%.  28842699_l

Their stats show we added 28,900 jobs, led mostly by part-time jobs in December and over 2019 the Australian economy add 262,500 new jobs.

This is a similar number to 2018, when we created 269,500 new jobs. But putting things into perspective, in 2017 415,300 jobs were created.

However, according to Roy Morgan research unemployment figure of 9.7% for January is higher than the current ABS estimate for December 2019 of 5.1%.

Roy Morgan’s under-employment estimate of 8.7% is also marginally higher than the current ABS under-employment estimate of 8.3%;

Roy Morgan figures always show a different picture.

The latest data for the Roy Morgan employment series shows:

In January over 1.36 million Australians were unemployed (9.7% of the workforce), with an additional 1.23 million (8.7% of the workforce) now under-employed.

  • The workforce in December was a record high 14,067,000 – comprised of 12,706,000 employed Australians and 1,361,000 unemployed Australians who are looking for work. The total includes a year-on-year increase of 417,000. The growth was driven by significant increases in both employment and unemployment compared to this time a year ago;
  • The number of Australians in employment was up 309,000 from a year ago to 12,706,000 in January 2020. This was driven by a significant increase in full-time employment of 344,000 to 8,601,000, partly offset by a drop of 35,000 in part-time employment to 4,105,000;
  • Unemployment, the number of Australians looking for work, was up 108,000 on a year ago, to 1,361,000, and the unemployment rate was up by 0.5% points to 9.7%. In contrast, under-employment, Australians working part-time and looking for more work, is now 8.7% of the workforce or 1,225,000 people (down 75,000, or 0.8%);
  • Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 9.7% for January is higher than the current ABS estimate for December 2019 of 5.1%. Roy Morgan’s under-employment estimate of 8.7% is also marginally higher than the current ABS under-employment estimate of 8.3%;
  • Although Roy Morgan’s total unemployment and under-employment of 2,586,000 Australians (18.4% of the workforce) in January, up 33,000 on a year ago, is larger than figures usually estimated, the biennial ABS survey the ‘Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation’, last released in late 2017, claimed that 2.7 million Australians would like a job or to work more hours – including 1.1 million people who wanted a job but were excluded from the Labour Force.

Michele Levine, CEO Roy Morgan, says the Australian workforce has now expanded beyond 14 million, however the growth is driven by increases in both employment and unemployment:

“Roy Morgan’s latest data shows the Australian workforce passing 14 million for the first time in January. This represents 67.1% of Australians aged 14+. Over the last two decades there has been a consistent increase in the proportion of Australians in the workforce, up from 60.7% of working age Australians in January 2000. Four candidates

“The engagement of a larger slice of the Australian population explains why both employment and unemployment have been able to increase simultaneously during this period. Over those two decades, employment has increased from 8.3 million to 12.7 million – a jump of 4.4 million while unemployment has increased from 980,000 to 1.36 million – up 380,000.

“The results show that while the Australian economy is consistently generating new jobs – an average of over 18,000 new jobs per month over two decades – the workforce has grown at an average of just under 20,000 per month. This gap of around 1,500 per month represents those joining the workforce but not finding a job – the unemployed.

“The natural disasters which have struck Australia so far in 2020 are a significant challenge and provide a short-term negative shock for employment growth. However the recovery process to rebuild communities and destroyed infrastructure will provide employment opportunities in the months to come.

“The impact of the coronavirus from Australia’s largest trading partner China is harder to quantify. The threat from the coronavirus has already impacted Australia’s substantial tourism and education sectors and may have a growing impact on manufacturers, retailers and other industries that rely on China for the importation of parts and finished goods over the next few months.”

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2005 – January 2020. Average monthly interviews 4,000.

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’* is based on weekly face-to-face interviews of 661,629 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and January 2020, and includes 3,983 face-to-face interviews in January 2020. *The ‘under-employed’ are those people who are in part-time work or freelancers who are looking for more work.


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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 Metropole.com.au

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