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Unemployment at 11% in August highest for more than two years

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2005 – August 2018. Average monthly interviews 4,000.

Australian employment has grown solidly over the past year however the faster rate of overall growth in the Australian workforce due to more Australians looking for work means unemployment has increased to a two-year high of 11% in August.

The latest data for the Roy Morgan employment series for August shows:

  • 11,940,000 Australians were employed in August, up 255,000 over the past year;
  • The workforce which comprises employed and unemployed Australians is now 13,416,000, up 407,000 on a year ago;
  • 1,476,000 Australians were unemployed (11% of the workforce); an increase of 152,000 (up 0.8%) on a year ago and the highest level of unemployment for over two years since March 2016;
  • In addition 1,071,000 Australians (8.0% of the workforce) are now under-employed, working part-time and looking for more work, a fall of 170,000 in a year (down 1.5%);
  • The increase in employment was driven by an increase in full-time employment which was up 323,000 to 7,761,000, while part-time employment fell 68,000 to 4,179,000;
  • Roy Morgan’s real unemployment figure of 11% for August is more than twice as high as the current ABS estimate for July 2018 of 5.3%.
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2005 – August 2018. Average monthly interviews 4,000.

Michele Levine, CEO Roy Morgan, says over a quarter-of-a-million jobs have been created over the last year but the even faster growth in the Australian workforce means unemployment has increased by over 150,000 to 1.48 million:

“Today’s Roy Morgan employment estimates show real unemployment of 11% in August up 0.8% on a year ago with 1.48 million Australians now unemployed. A further 1.07 million Australians (8%) are now under-employed meaning a total of 2.55 million Australians (19% of the workforce) are either unemployed and looking for work or employed part-time and looking for more work (under-employed).

“The high level of unemployment and under-employment is not because jobs aren’t being created, it’s because the workforce continues to grow at a faster rate than the growth in employment.

“Over the last year Australian employment grew by 255,000 however the workforce grew by over 400,000. This means only just over 60% of Australians entering the workforce found jobs whilst almost 40% (152,000) of Australians entering the workforce became unemployed.

“The fast growing Australian workforce not providing enough jobs to make a real dent in Australia’s unemployment and under-employment is not a new phenomenon. Analysing the (almost) three years former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in office illustrates the persistent nature of this trend.

“Over the last three years since August 2015 (the month before Turnbull became Prime Minister) the Australian workforce grew by 665,000 which consisted of 362,000 new jobs being created as well as a further 303,000 Australians joining the workforce but being unable to find a job.

“In percentage terms the Australian workforce grew by 5.2% over the last three years, a faster rate of growth than the Australian population aged 14+ which grew by 4.6% to 20.5 million (up 900,000).

“In addition to the surging workforce, most of the increase in employment during Turnbull’s Prime Ministership was part-time. Nearly 350,000 net part-time jobs were created over the last three years compared to a net increase of under 20,000 full-time jobs.

“This large increase in part-time employment is the biggest driver behind the increase in under-employment in the last three years – up by 127,000 to 1.07 million.”

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’* is based on weekly face-to-face interviews of 596,311 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 – August 2018 and includes 4,034 face-to-face interviews in August 2018.

*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).

For further information:




Gary Morgan:

+61 3 9224 5213

+61 411 129 094

Michele Levine:

+61 3 9224 5215

+61 411 129 093

Unemployment Data Tables

Roy Morgan Research Employment Estimates (2001-2018)

Roy Morgan Research Unemployment & Under-employment Estimates (2007-2018)

Roy Morgan Research vs ABS Employment Estimates (1992-2018)

ABS Employment Estimates (1992-2018)



The Roy Morgan Unemployment estimate is obtained by surveying an Australia-wide cross section by face-to-face interviews. A person is classified as unemployed if they are looking for work, no matter when.

The results are not seasonally adjusted and provide an accurate measure of monthly unemployment estimates in Australia.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are obtained by mostly telephone interviews. Households selected for the ABS Survey are interviewed each month for eight months, with one-eighth of the sample being replaced each month. The first interview is conducted face-to-face. Subsequent interviews are then conducted by telephone.

The ABS classifies a person as unemployed if, when surveyed, they have been actively looking for work in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and if they were available for work in the reference week.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are also seasonally adjusted.

For these reasons the Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are different from the Roy Morgan Unemployment estimate. Gary Morgan's concerns regarding the ABS Unemployment estimate is clearly outlined in his letter to the Australian Financial Review, which was not published.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. The following table gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. The figures are approximate and for general guidance only, and assume a simple random sample. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

% Estimate



25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%