Back To Listing

Australian unemployment drops to 8.1% in May, as Federal Election causes a surge in part-time employment

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’* is based on weekly interviews of 833,289 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and May 2022 and includes 7,272 telephone and online interviews in May 2022. *The ‘under-employed’ are those people who are in part-time work or freelancers who are looking for more work.

The latest Roy Morgan employment series data shows unemployment dropping by 1.6% points to 8.1% in May as many Australians took up part-time employment in relation to the recent Federal Election. Under-employment in May increased slightly by 0.2% points to 8.6%.

Unemployment in May fell 242,000 to 1.17 million Australians (8.1% of the workforce) while under-employment was up 9,000 to 1.24 million (8.6% of the workforce). Overall unemployment and under-employment fell 233,000 to 2.41 million (16.7% of the workforce).


  • The workforce decreased by 149,000 in May driven by the large fall in unemployment:

    The workforce in May was 14,413,000 (down 149,000 from April) – comprised of 13,244,000 employed Australians (up 93,000) and 1,169,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (down 242,000).

    The drop in the workforce in May returned the workforce to its level of three months ago in February 2022. The level of the workforce so far during 2022 has been heavily impacted by the different waves of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 that have swept Australia during January, March and lately during May, and the changing workplace policies surrounding close contacts of confirmed cases.

  • Rise in employment driven by increase in part-time employment due to Federal Election:

    Australian employment increased by 93,000 to 13,244,000 in May driven by an increase in part-time employment, up 289,000 to 4,731,000 as many people took up part-time employment with the Australian Electoral Commission in relation to the recent Federal Election. In contrast, full-time employment fell by 196,000 to 8,513,000.
  • The rise in part-time employment led to the decline in unemployment in May:

    1,169,000 Australians were unemployed (8.1% of the workforce), a decrease of 242,000 from April with fewer people looking for both part-time work, down 160,000 to 692,000, and also full-time work, down 82,000 to 477,000.
  • Under-employment was virtually unchanged in May at 1.24 million:

    In addition to the unemployed, 1.24 million Australians (8.6% of the workforce) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work, up just 9,000 from April.

    In total 2.41 million Australians (16.7% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in May, down 233,000 on April.

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in May 2022 there were almost 250,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+1.1% points) even though overall employment (13,244,000) is almost 400,000 higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 8.1% for May is more than double the ABS estimate for April 2022 of 3.9%. However, the ABS figure for April show there were 742,000 workers who worked fewer hours than usual due to illness, personal injury or sick leave compared to an average of 358,150 for the month of April over the six years from April 2016 – April 2021.

This difference, which can be put down to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, equates to a difference of 383,850 in April 2022 above the average for the month of April for the previous six years. If these workers are added to the 537,100 classified as unemployed this creates a total of 920,950 – equivalent to 6.6% of the workforce. In addition, the ABS classifies 6.1% of the workforce (approximately 857,000 workers) as under-employed. Combining these figures adds to 1.78 million workers, around 12.7% of the workforce.

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment (2019-2022)

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – May 2022. Average monthly interviews 5,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.

Michele Levine, CEO Roy Morgan, says unemployment fell 1.6% points to 8.1% in May as many Australians took up part-time employment with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) surrounding the recent Federal Election:

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for May show unemployment down 1.6% points to 8.1% while under-employment was little changed, up 0.2% points to 8.6%. Altogether these figures translate into 1.17 million unemployed and 1.24 million under-employed, a total of 2.41 million Australians either unemployed or under-employed (16.7% of the workforce).

“The fall in unemployment in May was entirely due to a surge in part-time employment which increased 289,000 to 4,731,000. The large increase in part-time employment was driven by people taking on part-time work with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) for the purpose of administering the recent Federal Election. There were also people who worked for the various parties taking part, although much of this work was unpaid and voluntary.

“Although the Federal Election drove this increase in part-time employment, there was no similar result for full-time employment, which fell 196,000 to 8,513,000 in May. Because of the one-off nature of the Federal Election we are likely to see a reversal of these trends, and a significant fall in part-time employment, in next month’s employment figures.

“The result of the Federal Election contains a lesson for the new ALP Government led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Ignore the large cohort of over 2 million Australians who are unemployed or under-employed ‘at your peril’.

“Many people within this group, which comprises around one-in-six working Australians, have been unemployed or under-employed for a significant period of time and were more likely to vote for a minor party or independent in the recent Federal Election than people employed full-time.

“The Coalition’s failure to truly tackle the high and enduring unemployment and under-employment throughout the Australian economy ultimately helped play a part in their defeat last month. When the Coalition initially came to office in September 2013 there were a total of 2.29 million Australians either unemployed or under-employed (18.3% of the workforce at the time).

“During the Coalition’s nine years in office this number fluctuated around this mark and soared during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, but never declined significantly and for an extended period. The figure dropped below the 2 million mark only once, in September 2015, before increasing rapidly from that point forward.

‘If the Anthony Albanese-led ALP Government wants to increase the prospects of its re-election in three years’ time one of their biggest priorities must be tackling the continuing high level of unemployment and under-employment throughout the country that the Coalition failed to reduce.”


Roy Morgan Unemployed and ‘Under-employed’* Estimates

Unemployed or

‘Under-employed’*

Unemployed

Unemployed looking for

‘Under-employed’*

Full-time

Part-time

2021

‘000

%

‘000

%

‘000

‘000

‘000

%

Jan-Mar 2021

2,971

20.6

1,750

12.1

717

1,033

1,222

8.5

Apr-Jun 2021

2,688

18.3

1,398

9.5

574

824

1,290

8.8

Jul-Sep 2021

2,573

17.7

1,350

9.3

547

803

1,224

8.4

Oct-Dec 2021

2,586

17.8

1,301

9.0

537

764

1,286

8.9

2022

Jan-Mar 2022

2,380

16.4

1,187

8.2

438

749

1,193

8.2

Months

April 2021

2,664

18.3

1,307

9.0

593

714

1,357

9.3

May 2021

2,749

18.9

1,493

10.3

558

935

1,256

8.6

June 2021

2,651

17.9

1,394

9.4

570

824

1,257

8.5

July 2021

2,756

18.8

1,422

9.7

619

803

1,334

9.1

August 2021

2,537

17.7

1,362

9.5

492

870

1,175

8.2

September 2021

2,428

16.7

1,265

8.7

530

735

1,163

8.0

October 2021

2,547

17.8

1,320

9.2

471

849

1,227

8.6

November 2021

2,536

17.5

1,330

9.2

583

748

1,206

8.3

December 2021

2,676

18.2

1,252

8.5

557

695

1,424

9.7

January 2022

2,427

16.6

1,201

8.2

464

737

1,226

8.4

February 2022

2,357

16.3

1,227

8.5

463

764

1,130

7.8

March 2022

2,356

16.2

1,133

7.8

387

746

1,223

8.4

April 2022

2,641

18.1

1,411

9.7

559

852

1,230

8.4

May 2022

2,408

16.7

1,169

8.1

477

692

1,239

8.6

*Workforce includes those employed and those looking for work – the unemployed.

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’* is based on weekly interviews of 833,289 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and May 2022 and includes 7,272 telephone and online interviews in May 2022. *The ‘under-employed’ are those people who are in part-time work or freelancers who are looking for more work.

Contact Roy Morgan to learn more about Australia’s unemployed and under-employed; who and where they are, and the challenges they face as they search for employment opportunities.

Visit the Roy Morgan Online Store to purchase employment profiles, including for Australians who are employed, unemployed, under-employed, employed part-time, employed full-time, retired, studying and many more.


Roy Morgan Research cf. ABS Unemployment Estimates

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2006 – May 2022. Average monthly interviews 4,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.


Roy Morgan Research cf. ABS Unemployment Estimates

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2000 – May 2022. Average monthly interviews 4,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source April 1995 – May 2022. Average monthly interviews 4,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.

For comments or more information please contact:
Roy Morgan - Enquiries
Office: +61 (03) 9224 5309
askroymorgan@roymorgan.com