December 08, 2022

Australian unemployment dropped to 9.0% in November; the first month since February 2020 without COVID restrictions

Topic: Unemployment
Finding No: 9126
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In November unemployment dropped 0.2% points to 9.0%, according to the latest Roy Morgan employment series data. The decrease in unemployment was due to an increase in employment with the overall workforce hitting a record high above 14.9 million, and a reduction in the number of Australians looking for work.

Unemployment in November decreased 24,000 to 1.34 million Australians (9% of the workforce) and under-employment was down significantly, by 178,000 to 1.38 million (9.2% of the workforce). Overall unemployment and under-employment decreased 202,000 to 2.71 million (18.2% of the workforce).

  • Employment increased in November driven by an increase in full-time employment:

Australian employment increased 112,000 to 13,580,000 in November. The increase was driven by an increase in full-time employment, up 296,000 to 8,868,000, although part-time employment decreased by 184,000 to 4,712,000 as all COVID-19 restrictions ended in mid-October.

  • Unemployment dropped in November as fewer people look for full-time or part-time work:

1,338,000 Australians were unemployed (9.0% of the workforce) in November, a decrease of 24,000 from October with fewer people looking for both full-time work, down 19,000 to 506,000 and part-time work, down 5,000 to 832,000.

  • The workforce was up 88,000 in November by the increase in full-time employment:

The workforce in November was 14,918,000 (up 88,000 from October) – comprised of 13,580,000 employed Australians (up 112,000) and 1,338,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (down 24,000).

  • Under-employment dropped significantly in November to 1.38 million:

In addition to the unemployed, 1.38 million Australians (9.2% of the workforce, down 1.3% points) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work, down 178,000 from October.

In total 2.71 million Australians (19.2% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in November, down a large 202,000 on October.

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in November 2022 there were more than 550,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+2.6% points) even though overall employment (13,580,000) is over 700,000 higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

Roy Morgan’s under-employment figure of 9.2% is over 3% points higher than the ABS estimate of 5.9% for October. However, the ABS figures for October show there were 467,100 workers who worked fewer hours than usual due to illness, personal injury or sick leave compared to an average of 364,900 for the month of October over the six years from October 2016 – October 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 and the mandatory restrictions that expired in mid-October, equates to a difference of 102,200 in October 2022 above the average for the month of October for the previous six years. If these workers are added to the approximately 838,000 workers the ABS classifies as under-employed this creates a total of 940,200 – equivalent to 6.7% of the workforce.

When the ABS unemployed (3.4% of the workforce, 477,600 workers) and this larger than usual level of under-employed (6.7% of the workforce, approximately 940,200 workers) are combined these figures add to 1.42 million workers, around 10.1% of the workforce.

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

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – November 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 means the labour market is now operating without artificial constraints for the first time since February 2020 – and the labour market is in a far different shape now:

Block Quote

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for November show an increase in employment driving down unemployment in the first month since early 2020 without any COVID-19 restrictions.

“Overall employment increased 112,000 to 13,580,000 driven by a large increase in full-time employment, up 196,000 to a near record-high of 8,868,000. The increase in jobs led to a fall in unemployment, down 24,000 to 1,338,000 (9.0% of the workforce) and a fall in under-employment, down 178,000 to 1,377,000 in November (9.2% of the workforce).

“Even more interesting is how Australia’s labour market has changed compared to the period immediately prior to the first COVID-19 restrictions being introduced.

“In the first half of March 2020 overall employment was at 12.87 million and has now increased by over 700,000 in the intervening two-and-a-half years to 13.58 million. Full-time employment has increased by 386,000 (55% of the increase) and part-time employment has increased by 322,000 (45%).

“This means a greater share of jobs created since the pandemic began (45% of new jobs) have been for part-time work than their share of overall jobs would suggest. In early March 2020 about 66% of jobs were full-time compared to 34% of jobs being part-time, but the share of part-time jobs has now been consistently growing for over two decades.

“The share of the Australian population now in the workforce (employed or looking for work) is now at a near record-high 69.7% compared to 67% pre-pandemic – an increase of nearly 3% points. The share in employment has increased, up from 61.5% pre-pandemic to 63.4% today – up by almost 2% points.

“However, although overall employment has increased since pre-pandemic, unemployment is also higher today, up by over 319,000 to 1,338,000. The increase in part-time employment has also led to an increase in under-employment, up by over 230,000 to 1,377,000.

“The story of the labour market during the last two-and-a-half years, during which borders were closed and in-bound immigration was heavily restricted, is that all the key employment indicators have increased significantly after an initial shock in late March 2020 when the pandemic first hit and the entire country went into a six week long lockdown period.

“The Federal Government’s injection of over $500 Billion of stimulus into the Australian economy during 2020-21 saved the country from a prolonged recession and created a demand surge for many parts of the economy that continues to this day.

“This surge in demand has led to record Retail Sales since mid-2020 and created a huge demand for labour which has lifted employment to record highs although there are still over 2.7 million Australians (18.2% of the workforce) now unemployed or under-employed.

“The flow-on effects on the record demand include the largest spike in inflation since the early 1990s and the sharpest increases to interest rates for nearly 30 years. The rising interest rates have yet to make a significant dent in Australia’s growth story with the latest ABS GDP figures showing the economy grew 0.6% in the September quarter 2022 and the economy is now 5.9% larger than a year ago.

“Looking forward into 2023 we expect to see the rising interest rates start to impact the economy as the fixed rate mortgages many Australians took out during the pandemic reset to far higher rates and inflationary pressures continue to build on businesses and workers alike.

“Australia out-performed most of the world during the pandemic years of 2020-2022 and is well-placed to continue that out-performance next year but there remains much uncertainty around the global economic picture heading into 2023.”

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
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
November 2022 2,714 18.2 1,338 9.0 506 832 1,377 9.2

*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 871,979 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and November 2022 and includes 5,942 telephone and online interviews in November 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 – November 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 – November 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 – November 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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