Roy Morgan Research
February 14, 2023

Australian unemployment jumps to 10.7% in January – highest since JobKeeper ended in March 2021

Topic: Unemployment
Finding No: 9176
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In January unemployment increased 1.4% points to 10.7%, according to the latest Roy Morgan employment series data. Unemployment increased due to two factors, part-time employment decreasing after the Christmas retailing season along with more people joining the workforce to look for both part-time and full-time work.

Unemployment in January increased 223,000 to 1.61 million Australians (10.7% of the workforce) and under-employment was up by 65,000 to 1.43 million (9.5% of the workforce). Overall unemployment and under-employment was up a large 288,000 to 3.03 million (20.2% of the workforce).

  • Employment dropped in January driven by a decrease in part-time employment:

Australian employment decreased by 150,000 to 13,418,000 in January. The decrease was driven by a drop in part-time employment, down 280,000 to 4,517,000, while full-time employment increased, up by 130,000 to 8,901,000. The movements in both full-time and part-time employment were in line with the normal seasonal trends seen at this time of year following the Christmas retailing season.

  • Unemployment was up in January with more people looking for both full-time and part-time work:

1,607,000 Australians were unemployed (10.7% of the workforce) in January, an increase of 223,000 from December with more people looking for full-time work, up 49,000 to 644,000 and more people looking for part-time work, up 174,000 to 963,000 – both at their highest since March 2021.

  • The workforce increased to a record high of over 15 million in January:

The workforce in January was 15,025,000 (up 73,000 from December) – comprised of 13,418,000 employed Australians (down 150,000) and 1,607,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (up 223,000).

  • Overall unemployment and under-employment above 3 million for first time in two years:

In addition to the unemployed, 1.43 million Australians (9.5% of the workforce, up 0.4% points) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work, up 65,000 from December.

In total 3.03 million Australians (20.2% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in January, up a large 288,000 on December. This is the highest level of combined unemployment and under-employment for two years since February 2021 (3,068,000, 21.0% of the workforce).

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in January 2023 there were more than 850,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+4.6% points) even though overall employment (13,418,000) is over 500,000 higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

Roy Morgan’s under-employment figure of 9.5% is over 3% points higher than the ABS estimate of 6.1% for December. However, the ABS figures for December show there were 807,400 workers who worked fewer hours than usual (or zero hours) due to illness, personal injury or sick leave compared to an average of 541,240 for the month of December over the five years from December 2017 – December 2021.

This difference in the numbers of people who worked fewer hours (or zero hours) due to illness, personal injury or sick leave, which can be put down to the highly infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19, equates to a difference of 266,160 in December 2022 above the average for the month of December for the previous five years. If these workers are added to the approximately 876,100 workers, the ABS classifies as under-employed this creates a total of 1,142,260 – equivalent to 8.0% of the workforce.

When the ABS unemployed (3.5% of the workforce, 499,800 workers) and this larger than usual level of under-employed (8.0% of the workforce, approximately 1,142,260 workers) are combined these figures add to 1.64 million workers, around 11.5% of the workforce – just over half of the comparable Roy Morgan figure.

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment (2019-2023)

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – January 2023. 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 ending of pandemic related restrictions in October 2022 has seen the return of seasonal factors to the Australian employment markets in recent months including the usual movements in full-time and part-time employment in January:

Block Quote

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for January show unemployment increasing by 223,000 to 1,607,000 (10.7%, up 1.4% points) – the highest level of unemployment for nearly two years, since the JobKeeper employment retention program ended in March 2021.

“The usual seasonal trends were seen in January as part-time employment dropped after the pre-Christmas retailing season, down 280,000 to 4,517,000 while full-time employment increased, up 130,000 to 8,901,000. Both of these trends are usually observed during the new year period as part-time retailing jobs dry up and people begin new full-time jobs to start the year.

“The significant decline in part-time jobs led to the usual increase in the under-employment rate in January which increased 65,000 to 1,426,000. Of concern is that over 3 million Australians (20.2% of the workforce) are now either unemployed or under-employed – the highest combined figure for two years since February 2021 near the end of the JobKeeper employment subsidy.

“Despite the complaints from some sectors who can’t find enough people to work in their industries, there continues to be a large pool of millions of Australians who are looking for work or looking for more work. This larger pool of potential workers than is usually considered has also been covered in the annual ABS Annual ‘Potential workers’ release – last released in May 2022.

“The latest ABS CPI figures released in late January show official annual inflation in Australia reaching a 32-year high of 7.8% in the December quarter 2022 – a figure that led the RBA to increase interest rates by another +0.25% to 3.35% at its first meeting of the year in early February.

“The RBA has also indicated it intends to continue increasing interest rates – at least for the next two months – as it attempts to bring inflation under control. The next official ABS quarterly CPI figure for the March quarter 2023 is due to be released on Wednesday April 26 in just over two months’ time.

“The RBA meets the week after the ABS March quarter CPI reading and Treasurer Jim Chalmers is scheduled to deliver the Albanese Government’s first Federal Budget under two weeks later on Tuesday May 9. If the RBA increases interest rates as expected by +0.25% at each of the next two meetings they will sit at 3.85% in April – the highest official interest rates for 11 years since April 2012.

“This confluence of official CPI figures, RBA meeting and Federal Budget will be pivotal in determining the course of the Australian economy over the next few years. The Albanese Government and other policy-makers must keep at the forefront of their thoughts the millions of Australians looking for work or looking for more work and who are the most likely Australians to be struggling with the challenges of high inflation and the rising cost of living.”

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
Oct-Dec 2022 2,792 19.4 1,361 9.2 542 819 1,431 9.6
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 2,715 18.2 1,338 9.0 506 832 1,377 9.2
December 2022 2,745 18.4 1,384 9.3 595 789 1,361 9.1
January 2023 3,033 20.2 1,607 10.7 644 963 1,426 9.5

*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 882,433 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and January 2023 and includes 5,977 telephone and online interviews in January 2023. *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.

For further information:

Gary Morgan:+61 3 9224 5213+61 411 129 094
Michele Levine:+61 3 9224 5215+61 411 129 093

Roy Morgan Research cf. ABS Unemployment Estimates

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2006 – January 2023. 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 – January 2023. 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 – January 2023. 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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