Roy Morgan Research
January 16, 2024

Australian employment increased to over 14.1 million for the first time in December, but under-employment hit a record high of 1.65 million

Topic: Press Release, Unemployment
Finding No: 9428
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In December 2023 Australian employment hit a record high of over 14.1 million for the first time with over 9.2 million now employed full-time and over 4.9 million employed part-time.

However, despite surging employment – up by 607,000 compared to a year ago – a massive 3.02 million Australians (19.4% of the workforce) were unemployed or under-employed in December.

‘Real’ unemployment was down 0.9% to 8.8% - an estimated 1,364,000 Australians (down 141,000) in December. There were fewer people looking for full-time jobs (down 90,000 to 536,000) and part-time jobs (down 51,000 to 828,000) compared to a month ago. In addition, there were a further 1,651,000 Australians (up 119,000) now under-employed.

The December 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 December with record high full-time employment:

Australian employment increased by 165,000 to a new record high of 14,175,000 in December. The increase was due to a rise in full-time employment, up 234,000 to a new record high of 9,242,000 while part-time employment was down 69,000 to 4,933,000.

  • Unemployment was down in December with fewer people looking for part-time or full-time work:

In December 1,364,000 Australians were unemployed (8.8% of the workforce), a decrease of 141,000 from November. There were 828,000 (down 51,000) looking for part-time work and 536,000 (down 90,000) now looking for full-time work.

  • The workforce increased by almost 600,000 from a year ago to a record high over 15.5 million people:

The workforce in December was 15,539,000 (up 24,000 from November, and up a massive 587,000 from a year ago) – comprised of 14,175,000 employed Australians (up 165,000 from a month ago) and 1,364,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (down 141,000).

  • Overall unemployment and under-employment down 0.2% points in December to 19.4%:

In addition to the unemployed, a further 1.65 million Australians (8.8% of the workforce) were under-employed, i.e. working part-time but looking for more work, up 119,000 from November. In total 3.02 million Australians (19.4% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in December.

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in December 2023 there were over 850,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+3.8% points) even though overall employment (14,175,000) is over 1.3 million higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

ABS Comparison

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 8.8% is more than double the ABS estimate of 3.9% for November 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 November 2023 due to illness, injury or sick leave was 526,000. This is around 134,000 higher than the pre-pandemic average of the six years to November 2019 (391,800) – a difference of 134,200.

If this higher than pre-pandemic average of workers (134,200) is added to the combined ABS unemployment and under-employment figure of 1,543,400 we find a total of 1,677,200 people could be considered unemployed or under-employed, equivalent to 11.3% of the workforce.

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

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – December 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 Australian employment continued to grow in December with a record high of over 14.1 million now employed, up 607,000 from a year ago, but there are still over 3 million Australians unemployed or under-employed – 19.4% of the workforce:

Block Quote

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for December show the Australian workforce and people employed continue to grow strongly. The Australian workforce hit a new record high over 15.5 million, over 14.1 million Australians were employed for the first time and over 9.2 million Australians are now in full-time employment – also a new record high.

“There are also over 3 million Australians either unemployed or under-employed for the fifth time in 2023. The latest estimates show 1,364,000 Australians were unemployed (8.8% of the workforce) and a further 1,651,000 were under-employed (10.6%) in December.

“As we have stated all year a big reason for these record highs, and continuing high unemployment and under-employment, is the large growth in the size of the Australian population over the last year. The increases are driven by a record high annual population increase of 831,000 during 2023.

“This level of increase is almost 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 280,000.

“The rapidly growing population has led to increases in employment metrics across the board. The Australian workforce has increased by almost 600,000 from a year ago to 15,539,000 and overall employment is up 607,000 to 14,175,000. The employed consists of full-time employment at 9,242,000 and part-time employment of 4,933,000.

“Unfortunately, there has also been a significant increase in labour under-utilisation over the last year as the economy has been unable to find new jobs for all those joining the workforce. Although unemployment has reduced by 20,000, under-employment has surged by 290,000. Overall labour under-utilisation is therefore up by 270,000 from a year ago to 3,015,000 – near post-pandemic highs.

“The high net immigration that is powering this growth in the labour market has kept Australia out of a recession over the last two years with the latest ABS quarterly GDP growth for September 2023 showed the economy growing at only 0.2% for the quarter – less than the rate of population growth.

“However, the swelling workforce is increasingly unable to provide the right type of jobs for all those who need them with over 3 million Australians looking for work or looking for more work. 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 949,088 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and December 2023 and includes 4,503 telephone and online interviews in December 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.

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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