Employment figures have previously been criticised, including by some My Business readers, as being skewed because they include people who work very few hours per week.
In a public statement, the bureau’s chief economist, Bruce Hockman, said that its unemployment reading “is a measure of who is employed, not how fully employed people are, which is covered by other measures”.
According to ABS figures, around one in every 1,000 employed Australians typically only worked one hour each week in 2018. And, it said, that figure has “not changed much in recent years”.
Given Australia’s employed population is sitting at 12,711,600, that would equate to roughly 12,712 Australians being paid for just 60 minutes of work each week.
“It’s important to remember that 97 per cent of employed people usually work seven hours or more per week,” Mr Hockman said.
He cautioned against relying solely on one statistic — particularly the unemployment rate — as delivering a picture of the overall employment and economic situation.
“While public attention may be focused on employment and unemployment, these two statistics alone cannot highlight whether people want more work, what their earnings are and what employment conditions they are entitled to,” Mr Hockman said.
“No single labour market measure can answer every question, which is why the ABS releases such a broad range of information throughout the year. In combination, these provide a greater understanding of Australia’s labour market.”
The official unemployment as of December 2018 stands at 5.0 per cent, while trend underemployment sits notably higher at 8.4 per cent — a marginal decrease of 0.1 of a percentage point compared with the same time a year earlier.
Releasing the results in late January, the ABS said that Australia’s unemployment rate is now at the lowest level recorded in eight years.