Roy Morgan Research
February 13, 2024

Australian unemployment virtually unchanged in January but overall unemployment and under-employment at 3 million (19.3% of workforce)

Topic: Unemployment
Finding No: 9448

In January 2024 Australian ‘real’ unemployment was virtually unchanged at 1,382,000 (8.9% of the workforce) and an additional 1,618,000 (10.4%) were under-employed. In total a massive 3 million Australians (19.3%) were unemployed or under-employed in January.

Although unemployment and under-employment remain high, there has been a surge in employment over the last year – up by 732,000 to 14,150,000. This is the largest annual increase in employment since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The January 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 remains near the record high at over 14.1 million in January:

Australian employment dropped 25,000 to 14,150,000 in January. Full-time employment drove the decrease, down 37,000 to 9,205,000 while part-time employment increased 12,000 to 4,945,000.

  • Unemployment increased slightly in January with 18,000 more looking for work:

In January 1,382,000 Australians were unemployed (8.9% of the workforce), an increase of 18,000 from December. There were 877,000 (up 49,000) looking for part-time work and 505,000 (down 31,000) now looking for full-time work.

  • The workforce increased by over 500,000 from a year ago to over 15.5 million people:

The workforce in January was 15,532,000 (down 7,000 from December, but up a massive 507,000 from a year ago) – comprised of 14,150,000 employed Australians (down 25,000 from a month ago) and 1,382,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (up 18,000).

  • Overall unemployment and under-employment down 0.1% points in January to 19.3%:

In addition to the unemployed, a further 1.62 million Australians (10.4% of the workforce) were under-employed, i.e. working part-time but looking for more work, down 33,000 from December. In total 3 million Australians (19.3% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in January.

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in January 2024 there were over 850,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+3.7% points) even though overall employment (14,150,000) is nearly 1.3 million higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

ABS Comparison

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 8.9% is more than double the ABS estimate of 3.9% for December but is comparable with the combined ABS unemployment and under-employment figure of 10.4%.

The latest monthly figures from the ABS indicate that the people working fewer hours in December 2023 due to illness, injury or sick leave was 546,400. This is around 162,000 higher than the pre-pandemic average of the six years to November 2019 (384,000) – a difference of 162,400.

If this higher than pre-pandemic average of workers (162,400) is added to the combined ABS unemployment and under-employment figure of 1,541,000 we find a total of 1,703,400 people could be considered unemployed or under-employed, equivalent to 11.5% of the workforce.

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment (2019-2024)

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – January 2024. 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 or under-employment remained high in January – the fourth straight month at 3 million or more:

Block Quote

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for January show total Australian unemployment or under-employment at 3 million or more for a fourth straight month. The first time this has happened since the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“’Real’ unemployment was 1,382,000 (8.9% of the workforce) while under-employment decreased slightly to 1,618,000 (10.4%). Longer-term trends show that total Australian unemployment or under-employment averaged 3.03 million over the last six months compared to 2.8 million over the previous six months, indicating a sustained rise in labour under-utilisation.

“The biggest driver is the high population growth which has grown by a record 896,000 from a year ago – more than three times higher than the annual average over the last 25 years of 280,000 – which has led to increases in all the key labour force statistics compared to a year ago.

“Over the last year the workforce grew by 507,000 to over 15.5 million and total employment was up 732,000 to over 14.1 million. Employment growth over the last year has grown at more than three times the 25-year annual average of 228,000. The employment growth has been tilted towards part-time employment, up 428,000 to 4,945,000 while full-time employment grew 304,000 to 9,205,000.

“The sustained increase in labour-underutilisation in recent months shows that the labour market is struggling to provide the right jobs for all those joining the workforce. Tackling this continuing high level of unemployment and under-employment must be the number one priority for the Federal Government over the next year heading into the next election due in early 2025.

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’* is based on weekly interviews of 955,112 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and January 2024 and includes 6,024 telephone and online interviews in January 2024. *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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