Labour market


This section covers the current state and movements in the Northern Territory’s (NT) labour market. Analysis is provided on key characteristics and indicators of the NT local labour force, including the current state and performance on employment, unemployment, the unemployment and the participation rates. This is broken down even further by gender, job status, regions and employment industries.

Key facts | Employment | Unemployment | Participation | State and territory comparison | Regions | IndustriesYouth labour | Fly-in fly-out workers | Underemployment and underutilisationExplanatory notes

Due to changes to regular and seasonal patterns in employment as a result of COVID-19, the ABS has suspended its labour force trend series from April 2020, until more certainty emerges in the underlying trend in labour market activity.

Key facts

Employment

In August 2022:

Unemployment

In August 2022:

Participation

In August 2022:

State and territory comparison

In August 2022, the NT reported:

Regions

In the year to July 2022:

Regional unemployment data is also published by the Commonwealth National Skills Commission. The quarterly release provides a more granular breakdown of the regions than reported in the ABS labour force survey. The trend data has been aggregated to reflect the NT’s major population centres.

In the year to March 2022:

Industries

In 2021-22:

For further analysis on employment by industries, please refer to the relevant section on the Industry analysis page.

Youth labour

In the year to August 2022:

Differences between the youth unemployment rate and NT annual average rate tends to widen when economic conditions slow and narrow when conditions improve.

Fly-in fly-out workers

The ABS does not currently publish data on FIFO workers in the labour force survey. However census data can be used to gain an estimate of the number of people working on a FIFO basis at a given point in time.

At the 2016 Census, there were:

  • around 8,700 FIFO workers in the NT, 3,500 more than at the 2011 Census.
  • around 1,700 outbound FIFO workers from the NT.

Underemployment and underutilisation

In August 2022:

  • the NT seasonally adjusted underemployment rate increased by 0.2 ppt to 5.4%, compared with 5.9% nationally
  • male underemployment fell by 0.2 ppt to 4.9% while female underemployment rose by 0.7 ppt to 6.0%
  • the NT seasonally adjusted underutilisation rate increased by 1.2 ppt to 9.9%, compared with 9.4% nationally
  • the female underutilisation rate was higher at 10.4% compared with males at 9.5%.

Explanatory notes

The ABS is releasing seasonally adjusted data for the NT for the duration of time that the trend series is suspended. Similar to trend data, seasonal adjustment attempts to remove the effects of systematic calendar patterns, however does not consider irregular or non-seasonal influences like with trend estimates. The seasonally adjusted time series will be used as a substitute until reporting of trend data resumes.

Labour market statistics are based on data reported by the ABS. For the latest available data and analysis, see the Department of Treasury and Finance’s (DTF) Labour force economic brief. For labour force statistics by industry, please refer to the relevant section on the Industry analysis page.

The labour force survey measures the labour market status of people aged 15 years and over who are residents in the NT. People are considered employed in the NT if they work for one or more hours in a week and unemployed if they were not working but were actively looking for work and available to start work. The labour force participation rate measures the proportion of the civilian population aged 15 years and over that is either employed or unemployed.

The NT consistently has the highest participation rate of all jurisdictions. This reflects the comparatively young age profile of the NT’s workforce where employment is often a key motivator for people to move to and stay in the NT. Due to this trend, the NT’s unemployment rate is usually lower than most jurisdictions as recently unemployed people who cannot secure a job tend to leave the NT.

The underemployment rate, as a proportion of labour force, measures the extent to which those working part‑time who wanted and were available to work more hours, and those employed full‑time who actually worked part‑time hours for economic (involuntary) reasons, such as being stood down or insufficient work being available. This is different from unemployment rate, as an individual is working but is not working at full capacity.

The underutilisation rate is a key measure that combines the number of unemployed and the underemployed persons, expressed as a proportion of the labour force.

The youth labour market (those aged between 15 and 24) displays different characteristics to that of the rest of the labour force. Young people have, for example, higher levels of job mobility, lower average incomes and a different occupational profile to the rest of the working population. Traditionally, the youth labour market make up a large share of unemployment as well as a lower labour participation in the economy.

The ABS labour force survey reports on the employment of Australian workers based on place of usual residence rather than place of employment. Therefore, the survey does not record FIFO workers in the NT if they are allocated in the survey to their state of residence. Similarly, permanent or temporary overseas workers will be classified as employed in the NT only if they consider themselves to be a resident in the NT. Permanent defence force personnel are also excluded from the survey. As a result, employment outcomes reported in the ABS labour force survey may not reflect the actual number of workers in the NT.

The NT has proportionately more households out of its total population surveyed each month, compared to other states. However, due to the relatively small population of the NT, the labour market estimates are subject to a relatively high standard error. Where trend data is available, monthly and quarterly figures are reported in trend terms to represent the underlying data after removing seasonal effects from the original data and smoothing out irregularities. Otherwise, the information is presented as year-on-year figures reported in original terms.

The ABS also provides estimates on the NT’s remote and Aboriginal populations and labour characteristics every five years, following a census. For this additional analysis, refer to the Aboriginal labour force characteristics section on the website.

DTF also works closely with the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation (DTBI) to compile information on the NT's labour market. For more industry and business-related data, please refer to their main website.

The Commonwealth’s National Skills Commission publishes quarterly estimates for state and territory regions by Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) and Local Government Area. SA2s are a geographical unit in the ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard, upon which the ABS Labour Force Survey data is based. Regional estimates are produced on small area unemployment, unemployment rate and labour force.  For more information, refer to the Small area labour markets publication online.