May 09, 2021

Australian employment hits a record high above 13 million in April – unemployment down, but offset by rising under-employment

Topic: Press Release
Finding No: 8702
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Latest Roy Morgan employment series data shows 1.31 million Australians unemployed in April – down 332,000 on March for an unemployment rate of 9.0%, the lowest since early March 2020 – but the drop was offset by a rise in under-employment which increased 268,000 in April to 9.3%.

  • 13.29 million Australians were employed in April – a new record high:

    13,291,000 Australians were employed, up 542,000 from March driven by an increase in part-time employment, up 413,000 to a record high 4,757,000. Full-time employment was up 129,000 to 8,534,000.
  • Unemployment dropped in April to its lowest since early March 2020 (pre-pandemic):

    1,307,000 Australians were unemployed (9.0% of the workforce), down 332,000 from March. There were fewer people looking for both full-time work (down 75,000 to 593,000), or part-time work (down 257,000 to 714,000).
  • The workforce was up in April, boosted by the record high employment for the month:

    The workforce in April was 14,598,000 – comprised of 13,291,000 employed Australians (an increase of 542,000) and 1,307,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (down 332,000).

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 9.0% for April is over 3% points higher than the current ABS estimate for March 2021 of 5.6%. However, the ABS figure for March counts as employed an additional 57,000 Australians who were working zero hours for ‘economic reasons’. If these non-workers are added back the ABS unemployment estimate for March increases to 835,000 (6.0%). The ABS also claims there are 1.1 million Australians (7.9%) under-employed for a total of 1.93 million unemployed or under-employed (14.0% of the workforce).

  • Under-employment increased in April as part-time employment increased to a new record high:

    In addition to those who were unemployed, 1.36 million Australians (9.3% of the workforce) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work. This was an increase of 268,000 on March.

    In total 2.66 million Australians (18.3% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in April, a decrease of 64,000 on March. The large decrease in unemployment drove the measure to its lowest since early March 2020.

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown was implemented, in April 2021 there were over 500,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+2.7% points).

Unemployment down in all States in April – lowest in Victoria and Western Australia
For the second straight month unemployment dropped in all six States in April. The end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy had little impact as employment increased in all six States with the largest increases in new jobs in Queensland (up 256,000) and New South Wales (up 152,000).
A look at the trends on a State-based level shows unemployment was lowest in Victoria at 7.9% (down 1.9% points from March) and Western Australia at 8% (down 6% points) following the record-breaking State Election victory by WA Premier Mark McGowan.
The unemployment rate was also under 10% in the other States including New South Wales on 9.7% (down 0.5% points), Queensland on 9.7% (down 4.9% points), South Australia on 9.7% (down 1.3% points) and Tasmania on 9.9% (down 1.4% points).
This is the first time since November 2011 during the middle of the ‘mining boom’ that all States have had an unemployment rate below 10%.

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment (2019-2021)

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – April 2021. 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 the JobKeeper wage subsidy and winding back of JobSeeker payments have been vindicated with employment rising and unemployment down in all six States in April:

“Australia’s employment markets have powered through the end of the Federal Government’s $90 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy program with employment increasing by 542,000 in April to a new record high of 13,291,000 – up 420,000 on the employment numbers in early March 2020.

“In April there were increases to full-time employment, up 129,000 to 8,534,000 and part-time employment, up 413,000 to 4,757,000. Part-time employment is now at a new record high while full-time employment is at its highest since February 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The growing employment market has led to declines in unemployment across the board. The unemployment rate dropped 2.4% points to 9.0% in April, the lowest it has been since early March 2020 and unemployment rates declined in all six States for the second month in a row. Despite the removal of Government support at the end of March the unemployment rates in all six States are now below 10% for the first time in nearly a decade since November 2011.

“Although there was a lot of good news in the April employment figures there is still a large cohort of 2.66 million Australians (18.3% of the workforce) who are either unemployed or under-employed. This under-utilised cohort is 500,000 higher than pre-pandemic when there were 2.16 million Australians unemployed or under-employed (15.6% of the workforce).

“A big driver of this increase is the higher participation rate today than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now 69.1% of Australians aged 14+ are in the workforce (14,598,000) and are either employed (13,291,000) or unemployed (1,307,000) compared to 67.1% in the workforce (14,087,000) a year ago in February 2020 when there were 12,913,000 employed and 1,174,000 unemployed Australians.

“Compared to the employment market pre-pandemic there is now a larger workforce which includes increases in both employment and unemployment as well as higher under-employment in an economy with a record amount of part-time employment.

“Overall, the economy has taken the ending of the JobKeeper wage subsidy in its stride and on Tuesday the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is set to deliver his third Federal Budget which will set the tone for the Government’s economic and policy priorities in the lead-up to the next Federal Election due either later this year or early in 2022.”

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’* is based on weekly face-to-face interviews of 751,605 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and April 2021 and includes 5,758 telephone and online interviews in April 2021. *The ‘under-employed’ are those people who are in part-time work or freelancers who are looking for more work.

Roy Morgan Unemployed and ‘Under-employed’* Estimates

Unemployed or‘Under-employed’*UnemployedUnemployed looking for‘Under-employed’*
Full-timePart-time
2020‘000%‘000%‘000‘000‘000%
Jan-Mar 20202,69219.11,41710.16387791,2759.0
Apr-Jun 20203,46624.62,09914.99371,1621,3679.7
Jul-Sep 20203,23722.71,86513.17691,0961,3739.6
Oct-Dec 20203,06421.51,73812.27899491,3269.3
2021
Jan-Mar 20212,97120.61,75012.17171,0331,2228.5
Months
February 20202,44317.31,1748.35176581,2699.0
March 2020 (Total)3,04621.61,71512.26841,0301,3319.4
March 2020 (Early)2,16115.61,0197.34026171,1428.2
March 2020 (Late)3,92327.42,40716.89601,4471,51610.6
April 20203,48424.72,15915.31,0011,1581,3259.4
May 20203,45924.52,09014.89071,1831,3699.7
June 20203,45424.52,04814.59041,1441,40610.0
July 20203,28423.01,78612.58079791,49810.5
August 20203,27022.81,98013.87681,2121,2909.0
September 20203,15822.31,82812.97321,0961,3309.4
October 20203,14722.21,81012.87901,0201,3379.4
November 20202,96421.01,68011.97799011,2849.1
December 20203,08121.41,72412.07979271,3579.4
January 20213,11821.71,68011.76929881,43810.0
February 20213,06821.01,93013.27901,1401,1387.8
March 20212,72819.01,63911.46689711,0897.6
April 20212,66418.31,3079.05937141,3579.3

*Workforce includes those employed and those looking for work – the unemployed.


Roy Morgan Research cf. ABS Unemployment Estimates

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2006 – April 2021. 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 – April 2021. 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 – March 2021. Average monthly interviews 4,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.

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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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