November 14, 2022

Australian unemployment increases to 9.2% in October as final COVID-19 restrictions end

Topic: Unemployment
Finding No: 9104
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In October unemployment increased 1.1% points to 9.2%, according to the latest Roy Morgan employment series data. The increase in unemployment was due to a decline in full-time jobs which drove overall employment down, although part-time employment hit a record high.

Unemployment in October increased 160,000 to 1.36 million Australians (9.2% of the workforce) although under-employment was virtually unchanged at 1.55 million (10.5% of the workforce). Overall unemployment and under-employment increased 152,000 to 2.92 million (19.7% of the workforce).

  • The workforce was down 77,000 in October driven by the large fall in full-time employment:

The workforce in October was 14,830,000 (down 77,000 from September) – comprised of 13,468,000 employed Australians (down 237,000) and 1,362,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (up 160,000).

  • Employment drops in October driven by decline in full-time employment:

Australian employment dropped 237,000 to 13,468,000 in October. The decrease was driven by a drop in full-time employment, down 309,000 to 8,572,000, although part-time employment increased to a new record high, up 72,000 to 4,896,000 as all COVID-19 restrictions came to an end in mid-October.

  • Unemployment rises in October as drop in employment forces many people to look for work:
  • 1,362,000 Australians were unemployed (9.2% of the workforce) in October, an increase of 160,000 from September with more people looking for part-time work, up 170,000 to 837,000 although there were slightly fewer people looking for full-time work, down 17,000 to 525,000.

  • Under-employment was virtually unchanged in October at near record high of 1.55 million:
  • In addition to the unemployed, 1.55 million Australians (10.5% of the workforce) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work, down 8,000 from September.

    In total 2.92 million Australians (19.7% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in October, up 152,000 on September – the highest overall figure for over 18 months since February 2021.

    Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in October 2022 there were more than 850,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+4% points) even though overall employment (13,468,000) is around 600,000 higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

    Roy Morgan’s under-employment figure of 10.5% is over 4% points higher than the ABS estimate of 6.0% for September. However, the ABS figures for September show there were 568,400 workers who worked fewer hours than usual due to illness, personal injury or sick leave compared to an average of 478,000 for the month of September over the five years from September 2017 – September 2021.

    This difference in the numbers of people who worked fewer hours due to illness, personal injury or sick leave, which can be put down to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, equates to a difference of 90,400 in September 2022 above the average for the month of September for the previous five years. If these workers are added to the approximately 846,000 workers the ABS classifies as under-employed this creates a total of 936,400 – equivalent to 6.6% of the workforce.

    When the ABS unemployed (3.5% of the workforce, 499,400 workers) and this larger than usual level of under-employed (6.6% of the workforce, approximately 936,400 workers) are combined these figures add to 1.44 million workers, around 10.1% of the workforce.

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

    Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – October 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 the end of COVID-19 restrictions in mid-October will have a profound impact on the labour market going forward as those contracting COVID-19 are no longer forced into mandatory isolation or eligible for government COVID-19 payments:

    Block Quote

    “The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for October show the workforce contracting by 77,000 in the month as overall employment fell by 237,000 to 13,468,000. The drop was driven by a decline in full-time employment of 309,000 to 8,572,000 although part-time employment increased for the fourth month in a row, up 72,000 to a record high of 4,896,000.

    “The drop in overall employment also led directly to a rise in unemployment, up 160,000 to 1,362,000, equivalent to 9.2% of the workforce There is an even larger cohort of 1,554,000 Australians now under-employed, equal to 10.5% of the workforce. Taken together overall unemployment and under-employment is now at 2,916,000 (19.7%) – the highest it has been since February 2021.

    “The ending of COVID-19 restrictions in mid-October means Australians contracting COVID-19 are no longer required to undertake a mandatory isolation period of five days at home. The ending of the mandatory period of isolation means businesses are now less likely to hire additional employees to fill vacancies created by the forced periods of isolation.

    “Throughout this year the over 10 million cases of COVID-19 have heavily distorted the employment situation due to the government rules on mandatory isolation. The early indicators from this month’s employment estimates show overall employment falling which may be the first indication of businesses adjusting to the ending of COVID-19 restrictions by letting go of employees hired as ‘cover’.

    “Although these results suggest the end of mandatory COVID-19 restrictions will lead to less pressure for businesses to hire workers as cover, the strong labour market throughout 2022 provides a counter argument that any drop in employment is likely to only be temporary.

    “Looking forward the current month is the first since February 2020 during which COVID-19 related restrictions will not have a direct impact on the labour market. However, other influences such as increasing inflation, interest rates and supply chain challenges caused by extreme weather events are set to be key factors driving employment outcomes during the upcoming year.”

    Roy Morgan Unemployed and ‘Under-employed’* Estimates

      Unemployed or


    Unemployed Unemployed looking for ‘Under-employed’*
    Full-time Part-time
    2022 ‘000 % ‘000 % ‘000 ‘000 ‘000 %
    Jan-Mar 2022 2,380 16.4 1,187 8.2 438 749 1,193 8.2
    Apr-Jun 2022 2,467 17.0 1,235 8.5 482 753 1,232 8.5
    Jul-Sep 2022 2,657 17.9 1,270 8.6 540 730 1,387 9.3
    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
    June 2022 2,351 16.3 1,125 7.8 409 716 1,226 8.5
    July 2022 2,516 17.1 1,246 8.5 494 752 1,270 8.6
    August 2022 2,692 18.1 1,363 9.2 592 771 1,329 8.9
    September 2022 2,764 18.6 1,202 8.1 535 667 1,562 10.5
    October 2022 2,916 19.7 1,362 9.2 525 837 1,554 10.5

    *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 866,037 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and October 2022 and includes 7,404 telephone and online interviews in October 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 – October 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 – October 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 – October 2022. Average monthly interviews 4,000.
    Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.


    The Roy Morgan Unemployment estimate is obtained by surveying an Australia-wide cross section of people aged 14+. 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.

    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 ABS classifies a person as employed if, when surveyed, a person worked for one hour or more during the reference week for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind, or even if a person worked for one hour or more without pay in a family business or on a farm.

    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 a 2012 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. Margin of error 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. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

    Sample Size Percentage Estimate
    40% – 60% 25% or 75% 10% or 90% 5% or 95%
    1,000 ±3.0 ±2.7 ±1.9 ±1.3
    5,000 ±1.4 ±1.2 ±0.8 ±0.6
    7,500 ±1.1 ±1.0 ±0.7 ±0.5
    10,000 ±1.0 ±0.9 ±0.6 ±0.4
    20,000 ±0.7 ±0.6 ±0.4 ±0.3
    50,000 ±0.4 ±0.4 ±0.3 ±0.2
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