November 08, 2021

Australian unemployment increases to 9.2% in October – as over 12 million Australians are released from long lockdowns

Finding No: 8834
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The latest Roy Morgan employment series data shows 1.32 million Australians were unemployed in October, up 55,000 on September, for an unemployment rate of 9.2%, while under-employment was up 0.6% points to 8.6% (1.23 million).

The latest Roy Morgan employment series data shows 1.32 million Australians were unemployed in October, up 55,000 on September, for an unemployment rate of 9.2%, while under-employment was up 0.6% points to 8.6% (1.23 million).

  • Workforce was down to 14.34 million in October, the lowest so far during 2021:

The workforce in October was 14,339,000 (down 234,000) – comprised of 13,019,000 employed Australians (a decrease of 289,000) and 1,320,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (up 55,000).

  • Employment in October dropped to 13.02 million, lowest since March 2021:

Australian employment dropped 289,000 to 13,019,000 in October driven by the decrease in part-time employment, down 379,000 to 4,281,000, the lowest for over a year since August 2020. In contrast, full-time employment increased by 90,000 in October to 8,738,000.

  • Unemployment increased in October as long lockdowns ended in Sydney and Melbourne:

1,320,000 Australians were unemployed (9.2% of the workforce), up 55,000 from September. Driving the increase was more people looking for part-time work (up 114,000 to 849,000) while there was a decrease in people looking for full-time work (down 59,000 to 471,000).

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

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – October 2021. Average monthly interviews 5,000. Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 9.2% for October is over 4% points higher than the current ABS estimate for September 2021 of 4.6%. However, the ABS figure for September counts as employed an additional 184,800 Australians who were working zero hours for ‘economic reasons’ and 263,400 Australians who were working zero hours for ‘other reasons’ – such as being forced out of work by mandatory lockdowns.

If these 448,200 non-workers are added back the ABS unemployment estimate for September increases to 1.07 million (7.9%). The ABS also claims there are nearly 1.25 million Australians (9.2%) under-employed for a total of over 2.32 million unemployed or under-employed (17.1% of the workforce) – a similar estimate to the latest Roy Morgan unemployment and under-employment estimate of 17.8%.

  • Under-employment increased in October even as part-time employment fell:

In addition to those who were unemployed, 1.23 million Australians (8.6% of the workforce) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work, an increase of 64,000 (up 0.6% points) on September. In total 2.55 million Australians (17.8% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in October, an increase of 119,000 on September.

Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown was implemented, in October 2021 there were almost 400,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+2.2% points) even though overall employment (13,019,000) is higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000). 

Michele Levine, CEO Roy Morgan, says Australia has finally emerged from a winter of long lockdowns of NSW, Victoria and the ACT and with the easing of restrictions hopes are high we are set to experience a period of strong growth in the months ahead:

Block Quote

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for October show unemployment increasing 0.5% points to 9.2% and under-employment increasing 0.6% points to 8.6%. This means total unemployment and under-employment of 17.8%, very similar to that of August (17.7%) and July (17.9%) during the initial stages of the recent lockdowns in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

“The increasing unemployment and under-employment nationally was driven by NSW and Victoria, both of which started the month in lockdown. Other States, including Queensland and South Australia, had increasing full-time employment in October with both State Premiers outlining plans to re-open their respective State borders in the lead-up to Christmas.

“Looking at an industry-specific level shows the industries to shed jobs during October were led by retail, recreation and personal services and community services – all industries that are disproportionately impacted by extended lockdowns and store closures.

“October was the month Australia finally started to emerge from months of lockdowns with Greater Sydney emerging from a 107-day lockdown on Monday October 11, Canberra’s two-month lockdown ending on Friday October 15, Melbourne’s sixth lockdown ended a week later on Friday October 22 and earlier that week Hobart’s second lockdown ended on Monday October 18. October was (hopefully) the last month we see widespread lockdowns around Australia although there is always the chance a COVID-19 variant arises in the future that could cause renewed lockdowns.

“The end of the lockdowns has allowed the re-opening of many businesses that have been forced to close because of heavy restrictions. Industries including hospitality, retail stores, arts and recreation and personal services such as hairdressers and personal training have been the hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions and their re-opening is set to drive a surge in employment during the next few months.

“This prediction is based upon the experience of Australia’s employment markets when Victoria exited its long second lockdown in October 2020. From November 2020 to July 2021 full-time employment in Australia increased for a record eight months in a row by 866,000 to a record high of 8,826,000.

“Although the increases in employment are unlikely to match the resurgence from a year ago there is likely to be a strong rebound in the industries most heavily impacted by the COVID-19 lockdowns as more than 12 million Australians who’ve been forced to remain at home for months are allowed to return to their normal lifestyles and spend some of the savings built up over the last few months.

“Roy Morgan’s data scientists working in conjunction with the Australian Retailers’ Association (ARA) have forecast pre-Christmas retail sales of $58.8 billion over the next two months – matching last year’s record and up over 11% on the pre-Christmas sales in 2019. The strong forecast signals a strong resurgence for the retail industry in the months ahead.

“Another strong signal about the expected resurgence of the Australian economy over the next few months is the exceptionally strong Roy Morgan Business Confidence Rating for October of 115.3, up 10.7pts (+10.2%) from September.

“Businesses became increasingly confident about the period ahead during October as State Governments provided more certainty about their re-opening roadmaps and Business Confidence was above the long-run average of 113.8 for the first time in three months since July 2021.
“Looking forward we expect to see the strength in Business Confidence and spending expectations to translate into employment growth in the run-up to Christmas and into the early months of 2022. There are risks to this forecast though and these include the threats of rising inflation next year and future lockdowns caused by potential COVID-19 variants evading vaccines.”

These threats, and several others, are explored fully in the Special Roy Morgan Micro Webinar on the Future of Retail in the run-up to Christmas and into 2022. View this informative webinar with Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine and social scientist Ross Honeywill (15 mins).

Roy Morgan Unemployed and ‘Under-employed’* Estimates

 

Unemployed or

‘Under-employed’*

Unemployed

Unemployed looking for

‘Under-employed’*

 

Full-time

Part-time

2020

‘000

%

‘000

%

‘000

‘000

‘000

%

Jan-Mar 2020

2,692

19.1

1,417

10.1

638

779

1,275

9.0

Apr-Jun 2020

3,466

24.6

2,099

14.9

937

1,162

1,367

9.7

Jul-Sep 2020

3,237

22.7

1,865

13.1

769

1,096

1,373

9.6

Oct-Dec 2020

3,064

21.5

1,738

12.2

789

949

1,326

9.3

2021

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

Months

September 2020

3,158

22.3

1,828

12.9

732

1,096

1,330

9.4

October 2020

3,147

22.2

1,810

12.8

790

1,020

1,337

9.4

November 2020

2,964

21.0

1,680

11.9

779

901

1,284

9.1

December 2020

3,081

21.4

1,724

12.0

797

927

1,357

9.4

January 2021

3,118

21.7

1,680

11.7

692

988

1,438

10.0

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

*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 791,560 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and October 2021 and includes 7,407 telephone and online interviews in October 2021. *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 – October 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 – October 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 – October 2021. Average monthly interviews 4,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.

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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