Back To Listing

Australian unemployment jumps to 9.7% in April; highest since July 2021 but under-employment unchanged

This Roy Morgan survey on Australia’s unemployment and ‘under-employed’* is based on weekly interviews of 826,017 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and April 2022 and includes 5,754 telephone and online interviews in April 2022. *The ‘under-employed’ are those people who are in part-time work or freelancers who are looking for more work.

The latest Roy Morgan employment series data shows unemployment increasing by 1.9% points to 9.7% in April - the biggest monthly increase since the initial stages of the pandemic just over two years ago. However, under-employment was unchanged at 8.4% in April.

There was a sharp spike in unemployment in April up 278,000 to 1.41 million Australians (9.7% of the workforce) while under-employment was up 7,000 to 1.23 million (unchanged at 8.4% of the workforce). Overall unemployment and under-employment was up 285,000 at 2.64 million (18.1%).


  • Workforce increased 39,000 in April driven by the steep rise in unemployment:

    The workforce in April was 14,562,000 (up 39,000 from March) – comprised of 13,151,000 employed Australians (down 239,000) and 1,411,000 unemployed Australians looking for work (up 278,000);
  • Employment fell in April driven by a large fall in part-time employment as restrictions eased and the Omicron variant receded:

    Australian employment fell by 239,000 to 13,151,000 in April driven by a large fall in part-time employment, down 270,000 to 4,442,000. In contrast, full-time employment increased by 31,000 to 8,709,000.

    The moves in the employment market can be explained by policy responses to the Omicron variant of COVID-19 as well as the steep fall in active cases during April. During April many of the isolation rules surrounding ‘close contacts’ of positive COVID-19 cases were relaxed – meaning many workers who had only been hired on a part-time basis to fill in for workers forced into isolation were no longer required.

    As well as the change in policy, there was also a steep fall in active cases of COVID-19 during April as the Omicron variant receded and total active cases fell to their lowest since early January. These market forces led to many part-time workers falling into unemployment while a lucky few were upgraded to full-time work.
  • Drop in part-time employment leads to steep rise in unemployment in April:

    1,411,000 Australians were unemployed (9.7% of the workforce), an increase of 278,000 from March with more people looking for both full-time work, up 172,000 to 559,000, and also part-time work, up 106,000 to 852,000.
  • Under-employment was virtually unchanged in April at 1.23 million:

    In addition to the unemployed, 1.23 million Australians (8.4% of the workforce) were under-employed – working part-time but looking for more work, up just 7,000 from March.

    In total 2.64 million Australians (18.1% of the workforce) were either unemployed or under-employed in April, up 285,000 on March. This is the highest level of combined unemployment and under-employment so far this year.


Compared to early March 2020, before the nation-wide lockdown, in April 2022 there were almost 500,000 more Australians either unemployed or under-employed (+2.5% points) even though overall employment (13,151,000) is almost 300,000 higher than it was pre-COVID-19 (12,872,000).

Roy Morgan’s unemployment figure of 9.7% for April is more than double the ABS estimate for March 2022 of 4.0%. However, the ABS figure for March notes there were 504,100 workers who worked fewer hours than usual due to ‘bad weather or plant breakdown’ – an increase of 454,900 on the same figure for February (49,200).

In addition, there were 577,300 workers who worked fewer hours than usual due to illness, personal injury or sick leave compared to an average of 418,700 for the month of March over the six years from March 2016 – March 2021. This equates to a difference of 158,600 in March 2022 above the average for the month of March for the previous six years.

Combining these two figures shows there were 613,500 workers who were classified as employed who worked fewer hours than one would have expected in March due to either the severe weather events and flooding in Queensland and NSW (454,900) or due to sickness and ill health due to the widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 (158,600).


Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment (2019-2022)

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment - April 2022

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2019 – April 2022. Average monthly interviews 5,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.


Michele Levine, CEO Roy Morgan, says the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on employment markets was evident in April as cases of the ‘Omicron variant’ receded after peaking in March and forced isolation rules for close contacts were significantly reduced:

“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates for April show unemployment up 1.9% points to 9.7% - the highest since the start of last year’s ‘Delta wave’ in July 2021 (9.7%). In better news, under-employment was unchanged at 8.4% for the month.

“There is an important question of why there was such a large increase in unemployment and it can be found when looking at the trends for full-time and part-time employment. Full-time employment actually increased in April, up 31,000 to 8,709,000, however there was a large drop in part-time employment, down 270,000 to 4,442,000 which fed into the increasing unemployment in the month.

“We have been discussing the impact of COVID-19 and the rules around isolation for those either infected with the virus or close contacts of confirmed positive cases and both of these factors clearly played a large role in the drop in part-time employment during April.

“The largest factor influencing the employment market was the relaxation of forced isolation of close contacts during April around Australia. If you are a close contact of a confirmed case you no longer have to undertake a mandatory period of seven days in isolation – you must only take a daily RAT for five days to find out whether you have contracted the virus.

“This policy change implemented around the country greatly reduced the number of Australians forced into mandatory isolation during April and meant many workers who had been employed part-time to fill in for other staff are no longer required.

“The other factor at play was the reduction in the number of ‘active cases’ of COVID-19 during April after a secondary peak of the ‘Omicron variant’ in late March/early April. At the start of March 2022 there were around 200,000 active cases but this increased steadily during the month and was at around 500,000 active cases at the start of April. During April active cases steadily declined to under 330,000 by the end of that month. The trends in ‘active cases’ were in different directions during the last two months: up by 300,000 in March and then dropping by 170,000 during April.

“These trends heavily influenced the number of Australians forced into isolation which was high and rising during March and then reduced heavily during April – especially once mandatory isolation for close contacts was removed.

“The removal of mandatory isolation for close contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 should mean the virus has less impact on the employment markets going forward as firms will need to hire less part-time workers to fill in for isolating workers.

“However, the counter to that is that as we head into the winter months many experts suggest Australia may be on the verge of another wave of the virus as colder weather tends to lead to more people congregating together indoors – the most effective way of spreading the virus.

“There is also the small matter of a Federal Election to be decided as well. The latest Roy Morgan Poll on Federal Voting Intention shows the ALP on 53% is comfortably ahead of the L-NP on 47% on a two-party preferred basis. If the results from this Roy Morgan Poll are repeated at the Federal Election it will be an easy victory for the ALP and they will garner a clear majority in Parliament.”


Roy Morgan Unemployed and ‘Under-employed’* Estimates

Unemployed or

‘Under-employed’*

Unemployed

Unemployed looking for

‘Under-employed’*

Full-time

Part-time

2021

‘000

%

‘000

%

‘000

‘000

‘000

%

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

Oct-Dec 2021

2,586

17.8

1,301

9.0

537

764

1,286

8.9

2022

Jan-Mar 2022

2,380

16.4

1,187

8.2

438

749

1,193

8.2

Months

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

November 2021

2,536

17.5

1,330

9.2

583

748

1,206

8.3

December 2021

2,676

18.2

1,252

8.5

557

695

1,424

9.7

January 2022

2,427

16.6

1,201

8.2

464

737

1,226

8.4

February 2022

2,357

16.3

1,227

8.5

463

764

1,130

7.8

March 2022

2,356

16.2

1,133

7.8

387

746

1,223

8.4

April 2022

2,641

18.1

1,411

9.7

559

852

1,230

8.4

*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 826,017 Australians aged 14 and over between January 2007 and April 2022 and includes 5,754 telephone and online interviews in April 2022. *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 employed, unemployed, under-employed, employed part-time, employed full-time, retired, studying and many more.


Roy Morgan Research cf. ABS Unemployment Estimates

Roy Morgan Unemployment & Under-employment - April 2022

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source October 2006 – May 2022. 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

Roy Morgan Unemployment Monthly - April 2022

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source January 2000 – May 2022. Average monthly interviews 4,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.


Roy Morgan Unemployment Quarterly - March Quarter 2022

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source April 1995 – May 2022. Average monthly interviews 4,000.
Note: Roy Morgan unemployment estimates are actual data while the ABS estimates are seasonally adjusted.