Small Area Labour Markets

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    March Quarter 2024

    Released 11:00am Friday, 19 July 2024

    Small Area Labour Markets (SALM) contains data for Statistical Area Level 2s (SA2s) and Local Government Areas (LGAs) - for more information on SA2s and LGAs please read the geography section of the SALM methodology.

    The June quarter 2024 issue of SALM is expected to be released in September 2024. 

    SALM estimates are synthetic so particular care should be taken when interpreting the data. We recommend users read the SALM methodology, and the guidance on this page, before examining the data.

    Labour market developments at the SA2 level

    Note: The analysis in this section only includes those SA2s for which data are available for both the March quarters 2023 and 2024. Please note that, due to breaks in series because of the shift to the 2021 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) in the September quarter 2023, there are no smoothed data for both these quarters for 292 SA2s.

    Nearly half (47.8%) of SA2s recorded a decrease in their smoothed unemployment rate over the year to the March quarter 2024. This is significantly lower than the 84.1% recorded over the year to the March quarter 2023 and consistent with the slowing in labour market conditions during 2023 and early 2024.

    Chart 1: Annual change in unemployment rate by state/territory (% of SA2s)

    As shown in Chart 1, above, nearly two-thirds of SA2s (66.1%) in the Northern Territory recorded a fall in their unemployment rate over the year to the March quarter 2024. On the other hand, the Australian Capital Territory had the largest proportion (70.1%) of SA2s recording an increase in their unemployment rate over the period.

    • A higher proportion (54.2%) of SA2s in rest of state areas recorded a decrease in their unemployment rate, compared with those in capital cities (42.9%).

    In the March quarter 2024, more than three-quarters of SA2s (77.6%) recorded an unemployment rate of less than 5%, while just 3.7% of SA2s recorded an unemployment rate of 10% or more.

    Chart 2: Distribution of SA2s by unemployment rate

    As illustrated in Chart 2, above, the distribution of SA2s by unemployment rate was relatively unchanged over the year. The number of SA2s with an unemployment rate of less than 5% decreased only slightly, from 1,614 to 1,584, which was almost entirely offset by an increase in the number of SA2s with an unemployment rate between 5% and 6.9% from 220 to 249. The number of SA2s with an unemployment rate of 10% or more stood at 76 in both the March quarter 2023 and the March quarter 2024.

    Recent changes to the geographic structure 

    As of the September quarter 2023 edition of SALM, the SA2 estimates are now based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2021 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).

    Due to changes in the ASGS between the 2016 and 2021 editions, there are a number of breaks in the series for SALM estimates at both the SA2 and LGA level. For more information, please see the SALM 2021 ASGS Changeover Guide in the Geography section of the SALM Methodology page.

    Minor series revisions

    For the March quarter 2024 release of SALM, the SA2 and LGA estimates have been revised back to the September quarter 2016 in the smoothed and unsmoothed series. These revisions are due to the ABS implementing some minor changes in how it accounts for some relatively small population groups from August 2016, introduced in the March 2024 release of Labour Force, Australia.

    Changes to mutual obligation requirements in some areas

    Mutual obligation requirements are tasks and activities that people agree to undertake while they are receiving certain types of income support, including the JobSeeker Payment and Youth Allowance (other). From time-to-time, and for a range of reasons, these requirements can be suspended. During the September quarter 2021, for example, mutual obligation requirements were temporarily paused in areas affected by the Delta COVID-19 variant and associated lockdowns. More recently, mutual obligation requirements were suspended in various regions affected by flooding.

    The suspension of mutual obligation requirements can have an impact on the SALM data. This is because the ABS only considers someone to be unemployed if they are actively looking for work. When mutual obligation requirements are suspended, it is possible that some job seekers may not have undertaken the job search that they normally would have, in which case they would be considered to be not in the labour force rather than unemployed.

    For more information on mutual obligation requirements, please see the Services Australia website.

    Using SALM data - with caution

    When using and interpreting SALM data

    • Be aware movements may reflect statistical volatility rather than underlying changes in the labour market 
    • Always use the latest SALM publication
    • Where possible, use year-on-year comparisons
    • Where possible, use the smoothed estimates
    • Be aware that SALM smoothed estimates lag changes in labour market conditions
    • Do not derive employment estimates
    • Use other data sources in addition to SALM

    SALM data can be volatile

    Unemployment and unemployment rate estimates at the SA2 and LGA level can be volatile. This is especially the case for SA2s and LGAs that are located within a Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4) where the ABS Labour Force Survey (LFS) data are also highly volatile. SALM users should take particular care where:

    • There are large movements in SALM data
    • SA2s and LGAs have a small labour force (less than 1000).

    Always use the latest SALM publication, even for earlier periods

    Always use the current SALM publication, as SALM data, even for earlier periods, can be revised.

    The ABS rebenchmarks its LFS estimates on a quarterly basis to ensure that they are based on the most up-to-date population information. These revisions are reflected in the latest SALM estimates.

    When new Census benchmarks become available, SALM estimates are revised back a number of years to reflect these new benchmarks.

    Where possible, use year-on-year comparisons

    Quarterly movements in the SALM data may not reflect actual changes in the labour market. We recommend considering year-on-year comparisons in the data.

    Where possible, use the smoothed estimates

    We recommend that SALM users analyse the smoothed SALM data, given the high degree of volatility that is inherent in small area estimates.

    SALM smoothed estimates lag changes in labour market conditions

    The smoothed SALM series is created by applying an average to four quarters of unsmoothed data. This means that changes in the smoothed SALM series will lag actual changes in labour market conditions.

    While the unsmoothed data are likely to be more responsive to changes in labour market conditions, they are also subject to high levels of statistical variability.

    Interpret the unsmoothed SALM series with caution. Even large movements could reflect statistical variability rather than actual changes in labour market conditions.

    Do not derive employment estimates

    It is not appropriate to derive employment from the figures in SALM. See the SALM Methodology for more details.

    Use other data sources in addition to SALM

    We recommend that users also consider other sources of information at the small area level. This is particularly the case for SA2s exhibiting high levels of volatility. Other useful sources of data include:

    SALM methodology

    SALM presents estimates based on the Structure Preserving Estimation (SPREE) methodology. SPREE enables the generation of small area unemployment, unemployment rate and labour force estimates.

    Visit the SALM methodology page to find out more about the methodology, source data, and geographical classification that underpin SALM.

    Downloads

    PDF publication

    The PDF version of SALM is a print-friendly document containing the key information for the current quarter, SA2 and LGA data tables as well as explanatory notes.

    Small Area Labour Markets - March quarter 2024.pdf

    Small Area Labour Markets - March quarter 2024.pdf2345154

    Download

    SA2 Data Tables

    Smoothed SALM estimates at the SA2 level are available for download in Microsoft Excel or comma-separated values format.

    SALM Smoothed SA2 Datafiles (ASGS 2021) - March quarter 2024.xlsx

    SALM Smoothed SA2 Datafiles (ASGS 2021) - March quarter 2024.xlsx2105266

    Download

    SALM Smoothed SA2 Datafiles (ASGS 2021) - March quarter 2024.csv

    SALM Smoothed SA2 Datafiles (ASGS 2021) - March quarter 2024.csv2223036

    Download

    LGA Data Tables

    Smoothed SALM estimates at the LGA level are available for download in Microsoft Excel or comma-separated values format below.

    SALM Smoothed LGA Datafiles (ASGS 2023) - March quarter 2024.xlsx

    SALM Smoothed LGA Datafiles (ASGS 2023) - March quarter 2024.xlsx517538

    Download

    SALM Smoothed LGA Datafiles (ASGS 2023) - March quarter 2024.csv

    SALM Smoothed LGA Datafiles (ASGS 2023) - March quarter 2024.csv535832

    Download

    Australian, State/Territory and Greater Capital City Statistical Area totals

    Estimates for Greater Capital City Statistical Areas, states/territories and Australia can be found in the ABS' Labour Force, Detailed publication. The data in Table 16b of this publication are 12-month averages of direct survey estimates and are comparable with the smoothed SALM estimates. Note that the Australian and state/territory figures will not match the headline seasonally adjusted data released by the ABS each month.

    Queries and updates

    The SALM estimates are prepared by Jobs and Skills Australia’s Labour Market and Migration Branch.

    For more information about SALM, please email the SALM inbox at SALM@jobsandskills.gov.au.

    Subscribe to receive SALM updates.