Roy Morgan Research
November 08, 2023

Over 3 million Australians were either unemployed (1.54 million) or under-employed (1.58 million) in October – highest for three years

Topic: Unemployment
Finding No: 9368
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In October 2023 a massive 3.12 million Australians were unemployed or under-employed (20.1% of the workforce) – the highest figure for three years since October 2020, according to the latest Roy Morgan employment series data.

‘Real’ unemployment was down 0.3% to 9.9% - an estimated 1,542,000 Australians in October. There were more people looking for part-time jobs (up 92,000 to 936,000) but many fewer people looking for full-time jobs (down 114,000 to 606,000) compared to a month ago.

In addition, there were a further 1,577,000 Australians (up 248,000) now under-employed – a record high figure for the under-employed, exceeding the previous record of 1,562,000 in September 2022.

The October Roy Morgan Unemployment estimates were 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 ‘real’ unemployment rate is presented as a percentage of the workforce (employed & unemployed).

  • Employment increased to a new record high in October with record high part-time employment:

Australian employment increased by 204,000 to a new record high of 13,959,000 in October. The increase was due to a rise in both full-time employment, up 46,000 to 9,009,000 and a large increase in part-time employment, which was up 158,000 to a new record high of 4,950,000.

  • Unemployment was down in October with significantly fewer people looking for full-time work:

In October 1,542,000 Australians were unemployed (9.9% of the workforce), a decrease of 22,000 from September. There were 606,000 (down 114,000) looking for full-time work but 936,000 (up 92,000) now looking for part-time work.

  • The workforce increased by over 670,000 from a year ago to a record high over 15.5 million people:

The workforce in October was 15,501,000 (up a large 182,000 from September, and up a massive 671,000 from a year ago) – comprised of 13,959,000 employed Australians (up 204,000 from a month ago) and 1,542,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (down 22,000).

  • Overall unemployment and under-employment increases 1.2% points in October to 20.1%:

In addition to the unemployed, a record high 1.58 million Australians (10.2% of the workforce) were under-employed, i.e. working part-time but looking for more work, up 248,000 from September. In total 3.12 million Australians (20.1% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in October.

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in October 2023 there were almost 1 million more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+4.5% points) even though overall employment (13,958,000) is over 1 million higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

ABS Comparison

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 9.9% is almost triple the ABS estimate of 3.6% for September but is almost identical with the combined ABS unemployment and under-employment figure of 10.0%.

The latest monthly figures from the ABS indicate that the people working fewer hours in September 2023 due to illness, injury or sick leave was 563,000. This is around 65,000 higher than the pre-pandemic average of the six years to September 2019 (499,330) – a difference of 63,670.

If this higher than pre-pandemic average of workers (63,670) is added to the combined ABS unemployment and under-employment figure of 1,464,000 we find a total of 1,527,670 people could be considered unemployed or under-employed, equivalent to 10.4% of the workforce.

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

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – October 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 total Australian unemployment and under-employment has increased to over 3 million in October – the highest for exactly three years:

Block Quote

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for October show 1,542,000 Australians were unemployed (9.9% of the workforce) and a further 1,577,000 were under-employed (10.2%).

“These figures combined show a massive 3.12 million Australians were either unemployed or under-employed (20.1% of the workforce) in October. This is the largest pool of under-utilised labour in the Australian economy for exactly three years since October 2020 when Victoria was in an extended lockdown and many State borders were closed.

“A big reason for these increases is simply the rapid increase in the size of the Australian population over the last year – a record high annual increase of 785,000 since October 2022. This is around three times larger than the long-term average over the last 25 years during which the Australian population increased on an annual basis by an average of 276,000.

“The surging population has led to increases in employment metrics across the board. The Australian workforce has increased by a near-record 671,000 from a year ago to a record high of over 15.5 million for the first time. The workforce increases have been spread between the employed, up a large 491,000 from a year ago to 13,959,000 (a new record high level of employment), and the unemployed, up 180,000 to 1,542,000.

“As the Australian population and workforce has grown, both employment and unemployment have grown as the economy has been unable to find new jobs for all those who need them. Compared to a year ago, overall unemployment and under-employment has increased by a combined 203,000 to 3,119,000 including a record high level of under-employment.

“The high net immigration has kept Australia out of a recession over the last two years, but the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has noted that the population surge is adding to inflationary pressures in the economy.

RBA: Minutes of the Monetary Policy Meeting of the Reserve Bank Board (April 2023):

 ‘Although higher immigration might reduce wage pressures in industries that had been experiencing significant labour shortages, members noted that the net effect of a sudden surge in population growth could be somewhat inflationary for a period.’

“The RBA’s decision to raise interest rates by 0.25% to 4.35% this week indicates concerns about inflation are still present and may lead to further interest rate increases. If the RBA continues to raise interest rates in the months ahead this will put further pressure on businesses and work to cool the economy in 2024 with fewer new jobs being created.

“The high level of unemployment and under-employment (at a three-year high above 3.1 million) must be the number one priority for the Federal Government over the next year. There will be increasing pressure on the economy to continue creating jobs with persistently high inflation (ABS: 5.4% in the 12 months to September 2023) and the highest interest rates for over a decade since December 2011.”

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’* is based on weekly interviews of 938,615 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and October 2023 and includes 7,410 telephone and online interviews in October 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

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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