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.

 Infographic showing change in employment Infographic showing unemployment rate 

Key facts | Employment | Unemployment | ParticipationYouth labour | Explanatory notes

Employment conditions in the Territory remain heavily impacted by the unprecedented effects of the Ichthys liquefied natural gas (LNG) project. During the labour-intensive construction phase, the Territory attracted a significant number of workers (interstate and overseas migrants) to supplement the local skilled workforce, which supported strong employment growth. Following its completion, NT employment has moderated.

There are a large number of people who work in the NT on a fly-in fly-out (FIFO) basis. While they are mostly employed in mining-related activities, their contribution to the NT’s workforce is widespread. As these workers are not resident in the NT, they are not included in the NT’s labour force figures or population figures. As a result, the NT’s employment numbers are not truly reflective of the number of jobs being created in the NT. Similarly, the number of people coming to the NT for work are not fully reflected in the NT’s interstate migration figures. There are also residents of the NT who leave the NT to engage in temporary employment opportunities in other jurisdictions. This means these workers are not captured within the NT’s labour force but remain within the NT’s estimated resident population statistics.

The NT consistently has the highest participation rate of all jurisdictions. This reflects the comparatively young age profile of the NT’s workforce and employment is often a key motivator for people to move to the NT, whereas unemployment is a key motivator for people to leave. Due to this trend, the NT’s unemployment rate is usually lower than most jurisdictions as when people leave they reduce employment and the overall size of the labour force. However over the last year the NT’s unemployment rate has steadily risen, reflecting soft labour market conditions in the NT and the rest of Australia.

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. 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.

For the latest available data and analysis, see the Department of Treasury and Finance’s Labour market economic brief.

Key facts


In March 2021, resident employment in the NT (Chart 1):

Job status and gender



In the year to February 2020:

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

Industries by job status

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

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


In March 2021, the unemployment rate (Chart 4):

Job status and gender


The following table is according to estimates published by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Skills and Employment for small area labour markets of all the NT regions in the year to December 2020.


In March 2021, the NT seasonally adjusted underemployment rate (Chart 5):


In March 2021, the NT seasonally adjusted underutilisation rate (Chart 6):


In March 2021, the NT’s seasonally adjusted participation rate (Chart 7):



Youth labour

In the year to March 2021:

Explanatory notes

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 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.

Furthermore, the ABS survey reports on the employment of Australian workers in the jurisdiction 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 excluded from the survey and therefore the ABS labour force survey may not reflect actual employment.

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. Youth labour estimates should be used with caution as the ABS notes they are subject to sampling variability too high for practical purposes.

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 Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business publish quarterly estimates for state and territory regions by Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) and Local Government Area (LGA). 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 ABS Australian Statistical Geography Standard, upon which the ABS Labour Force Survey data are 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.