There are around 12.4 million people employed in Australia. More than two thirds work full-time and almost half are female. Around one in every five workers is aged 55 years or older, while young people (aged 15-24 years) comprise 14% of total employment. Two thirds of Australian workers hold post-school qualifications.
Recent labour market developments (to January 2018)
Labour market conditions have strengthened considerably over the year, with employment increasing by a robust 403,300 (or 3.3%), more than double the decade annual average rate of 1.6%. The increase in employment was due, predominantly, to a rise in full time employment, up by 293,200 (or 3.6%) to 8,460,900 in January 2018, while part-time employment increased by 110,100 (or 2.8%) to 3,992,600. The unemployment rate fell from 5.7% in January 2017 to 5.5% in January 2018, while the participation rate rose by 1.0 percentage point to 65.6%, as stronger labour market conditions encouraged more people to enter the labour market. Despite the clear strengthening, some spare capacity remains evident in the labour market, with 1,092,000 underemployed workers (persons who are not fully employed and want, and are available for, more hours of work) in November 2017. The underemployment rate was unchanged over the year, at 8.3% in November 2017, below the peak of 8.9% in February 2017.
Youth labour market
Young people have benefited from the improvement in labour market conditions, with youth employment increasing strongly, up by 43,800 (or 2.4%) over the year to 1,891,000 in January 2018. Encouragingly, the rise in employment was due to an increase in full time employment (up by 44,400). Against the stronger background, the youth unemployment rate fell by 0.1 percentage points over the year to 12.3% in January 2018, although it remains more than double the rate recorded for all persons.
Despite these improvements, many young people are continuing to encounter difficulties when trying to secure work, and are facing longer spells of unemployment, with the burden of long-term unemployment (LTU) being disproportionately felt by youth. Young people now comprise 26.6% of the LTU pool, compared with the 22.6% recorded in September 2008. That said, 53.2% of youth were participating in full-time education in January 2018, well above the 47.2% recorded in September 2008, which is encouraging given that higher levels of educational attainment significantly improve labour market prospects.
While employment outcomes for higher education graduates have improved over the last few years, with 71.8% of bachelor degree graduates finding full-time employment after graduating in 2017, up from the recent low of 68.1% in 2014, outcomes remain well below the 85.2% recorded in 2008. There has also been an increase in the proportion of graduates who are employed in an occupation that is not commensurate with their level of educational attainment. This suggests that graduates are ‘pushing down’ into lower skill level occupations where they are competing with people with far fewer or no qualifications, such as the long-term unemployed and unskilled young people.
Employment by state and territory
|Employment||Employment Profile||Workforce Educational Profile||Projected Employment|
|Employ’t Nov 2017||5 year change to Nov 2017||Part-time||Female||Aged 15 to 24 years||Aged 55 years or older||Bachelor degree or higher||Cert III or higher VET qual||No post-school qual||5 year change to May 2022|
|States and Territories||‘000||‘000||%||%||%||%||%||%||%||%||%|
|New South Wales||3,920.6||348.5||9.8||30||47||14||19||33||30||31||8.4|
|Australian Capital Territory||228.6||16.3||7.7||28||49||15||15||45||24||27||6.9|
1. Some data are trend and, for these, totals do not add
Sources: ABS, Labour Force (trend and annual averages of original data); ABS, Census of Population and Housing; QILT, Graduate Outcomes Survey; Department of Jobs and Small Business, Employment Projections