September 05, 2022

Australian unemployment increases to 9.2% in August as workforce swells to 14.8 million Australians

Topic: Morgan Poll Review, Press Release, Special Poll, Unemployment
Finding No: 9074
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In August unemployment increased 0.7% points to 9.2%, according to the latest Roy Morgan employment series data. The rise in unemployment was due to more people entering the workforce, but unable to find jobs, as both overall employment and unemployment increased.

Unemployment in August increased 117,000 to 1.36 million Australians (9.2% of the workforce) while under-employment was up 59,000 to 1.33 million (8.9% of the workforce). Overall unemployment and under-employment increased 176,000 to 2.69 million (18.1% of the workforce).

  • The workforce was up 164,000 in August driven by increasing employment and unemployment:
    The workforce in August was 14,850,000 (up 164,000 from July) – comprised of 13,487,000 employed Australians (up 47,000) and 1,363,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (up 117,000).
  • Employment up in August driven by an increase in part-time employment to a new record high:
    Australian employment increased 47,000 to a new record high of 13,487,000 in August. The increase was driven by a rise in part-time employment, up 247,000 to a new record high of 4,803,000. However, this increase was largely offset by the decline in full-time employment, down 200,000 to 8,684,000.
  • People joining the workforce drove the increase in unemployment in August:
    1,363,000 Australians were unemployed (9.2% of the workforce) in August, an increase of 117,000 from July with more people looking for full-time work, up 98,000 to 592,000, and also more people looking for part-time work, up 19,000 to 771,000.
  • Under-employment increased in August to 1.33 million – the highest level so far this year:
    In addition to the unemployed, 1.33 million Australians (8.9% of the workforce) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work, up by 59,000 from July.

    In total 2.69 million Australians (18.1% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in August, up 176,000 on July.

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in August 2022 there were more than 530,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+2.5% points) even though overall employment (13,487,000) is over 600,000 higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 9.2% for August is more than double the ABS estimate for July 2022 of 3.4%. However, the ABS figures for July show there were 750,000 workers who worked fewer hours than usual due to illness, personal injury or sick leave compared to an average of 446,340 for the month of July over the five years from July 2017 – July 2021.

This difference, which can be put down to the Omicron variant of COVID-19, equates to a difference of 303,660 in July 2022 above the average for the month of July for the previous five years. If these workers are added to the 473,600 classified as unemployed this creates a total of 777,260 – equivalent to 5.5% of the workforce. In addition, the ABS classifies 6.0% of the workforce (approximately 848,000 workers) as under-employed. Combining these figures adds to 1.6 million workers, around 11.6% of the workforce.

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

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – August 2022. 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 Australian workforce swelled to a new record high of over 14.8 million in August with employment and unemployment both increasing for a second straight month and employment hitting a record high of 13.5 million:

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“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for August show the workforce increasing by 164,000 to a record high of 14,850,000. There was good news driving part of this rise with employment up 47,000 to 13,847,000 in August – also a new record high. This increase was driven by the rise in part-time employment which increased by 247,000 to a new record high of 4,803,000.

“However, of more concern were the increases in both unemployment, up 117,000 to 1,363,000, and under-employment, up 59,000 to 1,329,000. This is the second straight month both unemployment and under-employment have increased, the first time that has happened since December 2015.

“The Albanese Government’s Jobs & Skills Summit last week looked at the policies needed to deal with a complicated employment market. There are some businesses that claim there’s a ‘skills shortage’ and have been demanding higher immigration, while the Roy Morgan monthly employment results, and the ABS ‘Potential workers’ release (Released in May 2022), show there are 2.7 million Australians either unemployed or under-employed.

“The ‘disconnect’ between these results show that although there are 2.7 million Australians who want more work, these people are often lacking skills, not able to move to where the work is, caring for children and unable to access expensive or unavailable childcare services, or dealing with other personal issues that complicate their search for employment.

“A key reason some people looking for work can’t find work is the difficulty in finding affordable housing to rent in the areas in which the jobs are located. The rental market in Australia has never been tighter and to attract workers some businesses, and especially those in regional areas, have been forced to buy or rent housing for their prospective employees.

“One outcome of the Jobs & Skills Summit was a decision to lift Australia’s permanent migration cap by 35,000 to 195,000. However, increasing immigration flows to Australia will only worsen the housing and rental shortages that are keeping many people out of gainful employment.

“There is also good news though in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent wave of the Omicron variant peaked in late July at over 350,000 active cases. Since then, new cases of declined rapidly and only around 100,000 Australians are now classified as active cases – the lowest figure we have seen so far this year.

“The rapid decline in cases in recent weeks has led to a further relaxing of restrictions with face masks set to be no longer be mandatory in airports or on domestic air travel. The ‘cresting’ of the latest wave of COVID-19 also means employment markets have the chance to normalise over the next few months as fewer Australians are forced into a period of isolation due to contracting the virus.

“The high rates of COVID-19, and the four waves of the ‘Omicron variant’ we’ve experienced, during the first eight months of 2022 have themselves had a big impact on the employment market. When workers are forced to spend 1-2 weeks in isolation businesses are forced to hire new workers which has led to labour shortages in key industries.

“Looking forward the September labour market may be the first so far this year during which high cases of COVID-19 in the community will not play havoc with the monthly employment and unemployment estimates.”

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
Apr-Jun 2022 2,467 17.0 1,235 8.5 482 753 1,232 8.5
Months      
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
April 2022 2,641 18.1 1,411 9.7 559 852 1,230 8.4
May 2022 2,408 16.7 1,169 8.1 477 692 1,239 8.6
June 2022 2,351 16.3 1,125 7.8 409 716 1,226 8.5
July 2022 2,516 17.1 1,246 8.5 494 752 1,270 8.6
August 2022 2,692 18.1 1,363 9.2 592 771 1,329 8.9

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

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and under-employed* is based on weekly interviews of 852,714 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and August 2022 and includes 6,076 telephone and online interviews in August 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 Research cf. ABS Unemployment Estimates

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2006 – August 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 – August 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 – August 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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