Small Area Labour Markets publication — Explanatory Notes

Structure of regional estimates in Tables 1 and 2

State/Territory data by Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) and Local Government Area (LGA) are presented in Tables 1 and 2 respectively. For the States, estimates for the Capital City and the Balance of each State are also presented in Table 1. There are around 2,200 SA2s (2,090 of which are published) and 540 LGAs in Australia. The SA2s are a geographical unit in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2011 Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS), upon which the ABS Labour Force Survey data are based. The SA2 estimates are then concorded to the LGA level in Table 2 using a population-weighted concordance based on the latest available LGA concordance from the ABS.


The estimates in Tables 1 and 2 are based on the Structure Preserving Estimation (SPREE) methodology which enables the generation of small area unemployment, unemployment rate and labour force estimates. Given the level of disaggregation involved in producing the data, the estimates are smoothed and averaged over four quarters to dampen the variability inherent in the small area estimates.

The estimates presented in Table 1 and 2 are derived from three primary data sources:

  1. Current recipients of Youth Allowance (other) and current recipients of Newstart Allowance who are not on a zero rate of payment, by SA2;
  2. ABS Labour Force Survey data by ABS Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4). The ABS Labour Force Survey samples private and non-private dwellings (approximately 26,000 households) across Australia and covers about 0.32 per cent of the population. More details about the methodology underpinning this survey are included in the ABS publication Labour Force, Australia (catalogue number 6202.0); and
  3. Participation rate data at the SA2 level from the 2011 and 2016 Censuses of Population and Housing.

The purpose of SPREE is to produce small area labour market estimates that reflect the regional disparities of the Centrelink data, while being consistent with the ABS Labour Force Survey estimates.

Unemployment estimates are produced by apportioning the level of unemployment at the SA4 level, as published by the ABS, across each of the SA2s within that region in accordance with the distribution of Centrelink Newstart and Youth Allowance (other) beneficiaries, benchmarked by ABS unemployment estimates by age, sex and marital status at the Greater Capital City Statistical Area (GCCSA) level.

Labour force estimates are produced by:

  • taking the participation rate for each SA2 from the Census (in instances where an SA2 does not have a participation rate, the participation rate for the SA3 is used as a proxy);
    • applying this to the latest available ABS estimated resident population (ERP) data for persons aged 15 and over for the SA2, to produce a labour force weighting for the SA2 within the SA4; and then
  • allocating the total labour force for each ABS SA4 to the SA2s within that region according to the labour force weighting.

By using Census participation rates and the latest available ERP, the SA2 labour force estimates are able to adjust to changes in the distribution of population within an SA4 that have occurred since the last Census.

Unemployment rate estimates are produced by calculating the level of unemployment as a proportion of the labour force (consistent with ABS methodology).

As the reliability of estimates at the SA2 level are related to the size of the SA2, estimates are only published if they had a labour force of 100 or more as at the September quarter 2018. In addition, caution should still be exercised for SA2s or LGAs with a labour force of less than 1,000.

Due to both the methodology used and the significantly higher variability of the data disaggregated below the SA2 or LGA level, it is not possible to derive reliable unemployment and unemployment rate estimates for particular groups (ie; males, females, youth) within an SA2 or LGA.

Derivation of Employment Estimates

The data in Tables 1 and 2 in this publication are synthetic estimates based on ABS and Centrelink unemployment numbers and labour force data from the Labour Force Survey and the Census. Accordingly, as the production of SALM does not involve the use of any sources of, or attempts to estimate, the level of employment in an SA2, employment estimates should not be derived from these statistics. For more information, please email the SALM inbox at

Other sources of Information

This publication, as well as data files in Excel format containing estimates back to the December quarter 2010, can be downloaded from the SALM website.

Unsmoothed series

The smoothed estimates presented in Table 1 and 2 are the Department’s official estimates of unemployment and the unemployment rate at the SA2 and LGA level. However, it is recognised that some advanced users may need access to the unsmoothed estimates which are used to produce the official figures. These are provided below.

It is important to note that estimates in the unsmoothed series have not been adjusted to take account of seasonal or other variations and can therefore exhibit irregular movements. Accordingly, they should be used with caution.