Sector Employment and Pay

Trend monthly employment data in January 2019 indicated that employment increased by 24,900  with the number of unemployed increasing by 1,800 though the unemployment rate remained steady at 5.1% as did the under employment rate at 8.3% and the under utilisation rate at 13.3%.

Revealing a steady state in the employment market, the participation rate remained at 65.7% and the employment to population ratio also remained constant at 62.4%.

The ABS data revealed a trend employment increase by 295,500 individuals or 2.4% over the previous 12 months.  This was above the average annual growth rate over the past 20 years which stood at 2%.

We note also that over the past 12 months the trend employment to population ratio, which is a measure of how employed the population is, increased by 0.4%.

Of interest in the trend data is employment dynamics, where research reveals that around 300,000 people enter employment each month and 300,000 leave.  This is particularly the case in the December/January period of each year.

Compared to January 2018, the data reveals there are 218,600 more full time employees and 76,800 more part time employees engaged in work.  This reflected a marginal shift to full time employment.

Average hours worked were around 31.8 hours per week.  It was noticeable that in the trend participation, female participation rates reflected the long term convergence of male and female participation, those rates being 82.9% and 73.5% respectively.

The unemployment rate in the 15–24 year old category remained steady at 11.4% though decreased by 0.9% over the year.

On a State basis, the largest increases in employment were in NSW (up 133,900), Victoria (up 118,000) and Queensland (up 27,800).  The highest annual growth rate was in Victoria at 3.7% followed by NSW at 3.4% and Queensland at 1.1%.

It is noteworthy that NSW and Victoria were the only States to deliver a year-on-year growth rate in trend employment above their 20 year average.

Unemployment rates, seasonally adjusted, were Tasmania (7%), Western Australia (6.8%), South Australia (6.3%).  Queensland (6%) compared unfavourably to the stronger economies of NSW (3.9%) and Victoria (4.5%) respectively.

While there are differences in pay levels between Australian States and regions, the following table sets out differentials by industry or employee category which highlight indicative median weekly earnings and the significant variability between sectors where the median in the mining sector is $1,950 and in the accommodation and food services sector, $500.

This demographic dissection of workforce pay levels and employment levels further highlights the significant challenge faced by employers in addressing any minimum wage adjustment.  There is clearly sensitivity in those areas of high employment and relatively modest skills where profit margins are under pressure compared to those sectors which are enjoying prosperity, either domestically or internationally.
























We note that the ABS segments the labour market into 19 sectors (categories).  The following table provides information on the employment level by sector in November 2018, the 5 year employment growth to November 2018, as well as the median age and weekly earnings of sector employees.

The list below sets out the three most represented occupations in each employment sector.

Accommodation and Food Services:

  • Waiters, kitchenhands, bar attendants and baristas

Administrative and Support Services:

  • Commercial cleaners, human resource professionals and domestic cleaners

Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing:

  • Livestock farmers, crop farmers, mixed crop and livestock farmers

Art and Recreation Services:

  • Sports coaches, instructors and officials, fitness instructors and sports persons


  • Carpenters and joiners, electricians, construction managers

Education and Training:

  • Primary school teachers, secondary school teachers, education aides

Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services:

  • Truck drivers, electrical distribution trades workers and electricians

Financial and Insurance Services:

  • Bank workers, financial investment advisers and managers, financial brokers

Healthcare and Social Assistance:

  • Registered nurse, aged and disability carers and child carers

Information, Media and Telecommunications:

  • Telecommunications trades, workers, journalists and other writers, film, television, radio and stage directors


  • Structural steel and welding trades workers, packers, metal fitters and machinists


  • Drillers, miners and shot firers, metal fitters and machinists, truck drivers

Other Services:

  • Motor mechanics, hairdressers and beauty therapists

Professional, Scientific and Technical Services:

  • Accountant, software and applications programmer, solicitor

Public Administration and Safety:

  • Police officer, general clerk, security officer, guard

Rental, Hiring and Real Estate:

  • Real estate sales agent, general clerk, hospitality, retail and service managers

Retail Trade:

  • Sales assistant, retail manager, checkout operator/cashier

Transport, Postal and Warehousing:

  • Truck driver, automobile driver, bus and coach driver

Wholesale Trade:

  • Store person, sales representative, purchasing and supply logistics clerk

The above data, in terms of indicative median weekly wages of employees in each sector, is almost universally below full time adult average weekly earnings which in November 2018 stood indicatively at $1,605 with full time adult average total earnings amounting to $1,666.