April 13, 2022

Australian unemployment drops to 7.8% in March; lowest for over two years since October 2019

Topic: Press Release, Unemployment
Finding No: 8934
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The latest Roy Morgan employment series data shows unemployment dropping to its lowest since the pandemic began, down 0.7% points to 7.8% - the lowest since October 2019. However, under-employment increased by almost as much and was up 0.6% points to 8.4%.

The moves in the employment market led to unemployment falling 94,000 to 1.13 million Australians (7.8% of the workforce) in March while under-employment increased 93,000 to 1.22 million (8.4% of the workforce). Overall unemployment and under-employment was virtually unchanged at 2.36 million.

  • Workforce increased 80,000 in March as employers hire more workers:

    The workforce in March was 14,523,000 (up 80,000 from February) – comprised of 13,390,000 employed Australians (up 174,000) and 1,133,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (down 94,000);
  • Employment increased driven by an increase in part-time employment:

    Australian employment increased by 174,000 to 13,390,000 in March driven by an increase in part-time employment, up 289,000 to 4,712,000. However, full-time employment decreased by 115,000 to 8,678,000;
  • Unemployment was down in March and is well down on a year ago:

    1,133,000 Australians were unemployed (7.8% of the workforce), a decrease of 94,000 from February with fewer people looking for full-time work (down 76,000 to 387,000) and also fewer people looking for part-time work, down 18,000 to 746,000.
  • Under-employment was up in March as part-time employment increased:

    In addition to the unemployed, 1.22 million Australians (8.4% of the workforce) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work, an increase of 93,000 (up 0.6% points) from February. When part-time employment increases (up 289,000 in March), under-employment usually increases as well as more people working part-time leads to more people wanting to work more hours.

In total 2.36 million Australians (16.2% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in March, virtually unchanged on February. Nevertheless, this is the lowest combined unemployed and under-employed since pre-pandemic in November 2019 – 2.23 million (16.1%).

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in March 2022 there were almost 200,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+0.6% points) even though overall employment (13,390,000) is over 500,000 higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 7.8% for March is nearly 4% points higher than the ABS estimate for February 2022 of 4.0%However, the ABS figure for February counts as employed an additional 130,800 Australians who were working zero hours for ‘economic reasons’ or ‘other reasons’ – such as being forced into isolation for being a close contact of a confirmed case. In addition, the ABS notes 221,800 workers worked zero hours due to illness, injury or sick leave in February – a figure that is 99,200 higher than the average for February from 2016-2021 of 122,600.

If these 230,000 non-workers are added back the ABS unemployment estimate increases to 793,000 (5.7% of the workforce). The ABS also claims there are an additional 926,000 Australians (6.6% of the workforce) under-employed for a total of 1.72 million unemployed or under-employed (12.3% of the workforce).

Michele Levine, CEO Roy Morgan, says there is good news for the Morrison Government in Roy Morgan’s March unemployment estimates, but there are also concerns that should be a focus of the current Federal Election campaign:

Block Quote

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for March show unemployment down 0.7% points to 7.8% in March 2022 – now at its lowest since October 2019 prior to the pandemic. The fall in unemployment was driven by drops in both full-time and part-time unemployment.

“However, the concern will be that the growth in jobs in March was heavily concentrated in part-time employment which increased by nearly 300,000 on a month ago and drove the growth in overall employment.

“The rise in part-time employment indicates that employers are taking on new workers on reduced hours as there continue to be hundreds of thousands of Australians forced to isolate at home either because they’re infected with COVID-19 or they’re a close contact of someone with the virus.

“In early March the Health Department website shows the total number of Australians infected with COVID-19 dropped to a low of 202,638 (March 1, 2022) – the lowest since the early days of the Omicron wave. However, by the end of March the caseload had substantially increased to over 480,000 by March 31, 2022.

“The forced isolation of over 500,000 potential workers is a big driver in the rapid hiring of people into part-time employment – which also explains the large increase in under-employment in March. Under-employment increased 0.6% points to 8.4%, effectively ‘cancelling’ out the fall in unemployment which was of a similar magnitude.

“The large rise in under-employment shows a big concern for many workers in an economy that is growing, but is also experiencing rapidly increasing inflation. During mid-March the average petrol price hit a record high of $2.14 per litre in the week before Treasurer Josh Frydenberg cut the petrol excise by 22 cents in the Federal Budget.

“The large increase in petrol prices since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February has led to rising prices across the economy. The price increases are being felt on supermarket shelves around the country, and the prices of food and drink at cafes and restaurants have also increased substantially during the last few weeks.

“These rising prices are putting added pressure on part-time employees who need more hours to ‘make ends meet’ and deal with the inflationary pressures in the economy. These forces are acting to increase overall under-employment and are a huge election issue for both the Morrison Government and the Opposition to tackle.

“Which party will provide a solution to the increasing problem of inflation and reduce the cost of living for regular Australians – and particularly the 1.22 million Australians who are under-employed and need to work more hours to make ends meet?”

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and under-employed* is based on weekly interviews of 820,263 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and March 2022 and includes 6,046 telephone and online interviews in March 2022. *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 employedunemployedunder-employedemployed part-timeemployed full-timeretiredstudying and many more.

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment (2019-2022)

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – March 2022. Average monthly interviews 5,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.

Roy Morgan Unemployed and ‘Under-employed’* Estimates

Unemployed or ‘Under-employed’*

 

Unemployed Unemployed looking for ‘Under-employed’*
Full-time Part-time
2021 ‘000 % ‘000 % ‘000 ‘000 ‘000 %
Jan-Mar 2021 2,971 20.6 1,750 12.1 717 1,033 1,222 8.5
Apr-Jun 2021 2,688 18.3 1,398 9.5 574 824 1,290 8.8
Jul-Sep 2021 2,573 17.7 1,350 9.3 547 803 1,224 8.4
Oct-Dec 2021 2,586 17.8 1,301 9.0 537 764 1,286 8.9
2022
Jan-Mar 2022 2,380 16.4 1,187 8.2 438 749 1,193 8.2
Months
February 2021 3,068 21.0 1,930 13.2 790 1,140 1,138 7.8
March 2021 2,728 19.0 1,639 11.4 668 971 1,089 7.6
April 2021 2,664 18.3 1,307 9.0 593 714 1,357 9.3
May 2021 2,749 18.9 1,493 10.3 558 935 1,256 8.6
June 2021 2,651 17.9 1,394 9.4 570 824 1,257 8.5
July 2021 2,756 18.8 1,422 9.7 619 803 1,334 9.1
August 2021 2,537 17.7 1,362 9.5 492 870 1,175 8.2
September 2021 2,428 16.7 1,265 8.7 530 735 1,163 8.0
October 2021 2,547 17.8 1,320 9.2 471 849 1,227 8.6
November 2021 2,536 17.5 1,330 9.2 583 748 1,206 8.3
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

*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 – March 2022. 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 – March 2022. 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 2022. 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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