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 persons employed Infographic showing change in employment Infographic showing unemployment rate Infographic showing participation rate


Employment | Unemployment | Participation | Explanatory notes

Employment

In the year to October 2018, resident employment in the NT decreased by 0.6%, reporting the only decline of all jurisdictions (Chart 1). This accounts for an average 137,791 residents employed in the NT during the year, and represents about 1.1% of the total national employment.

Across the other jurisdictions, year-on-year growth in employment ranged from 1.9% in Western Australia to 3.6% in New South Wales. Nationally, year-on-year employment grew by 2.9%.

Job status

In the year to October 2018, the decline in the NT’s employment was driven by a 4.7% decline in part-time employment, partly offset by a 0.6 per cent increase in full time employment. The overall proportion of part-time employment is relatively stable and continues to represent around one fifth of total employment in the NT. The annual average total resident employment was made up of about 109,711 people employed on a full­â€‘time basis and 28,081 people employed on a part‑time basis (Chart 2).

Gender

In the year to October 2018, total resident employment was made up of an average of 73,258 males (about 53.2% of total employment) and 64,533 females (about 46.8% of total employment) in the NT’s labour market.

Gender by status

The total number of males employed in the NT decreased by 1.0% driven by a 0.4% decline in full-time employment and a 4.9% decrease in part-time employment. The total number of females in employment decreased slightly by 0.1% driven by a 4.6% decline in part-time employment, partly offset by a 1.9% increase in full-time employment.

Regions

In the year to October 2018, the decline in employment was primarily driven by a fall in the NT Outback (down 5.0%). In contrast, employment in the Darwin region increased by 2.2%.

Gender by region

The year-on-year decline in the NT Outback was driven by a 7.1% decrease in male employment, followed by a 2.8% decrease in female employment. In contrast, growth in employment for the Darwin region was supported by a 2.7% increase in male employment, and a 1.7% increase in female employment. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) does not break down the NT Outback into smaller regions.

Industries

In the year to August 2018, the main industries that detracted from employment include mining (down 19.9%), rental, hiring and real estate services (down 19.7%), education and training (down 12.9%), electricity, gas, water and waste services (down 9.6%) and accommodation and food services (down 7.3%). In contrast, there was a range of sectors that experienced employment growth over the same period, with the main sectors including agriculture, forestry and fishing (up 39.8%), information media and telecommunications (up 35.4%), arts and recreation services (up 31.4%) administrative and support services (up 20.6%) and health care and social assistance (up 16.0%) (Table 1).

The Ichthys liquefied natural gas (LNG) project has been a strong driver of employment in the NT in recent years and, as such, fluctuations in its workforce has had a strong influence on construction employment levels. In the year to August 2018, the construction sector decreased by 2.7%, likely associated to the lower workforce requirements on the the Ichthys LNG project,, as well as the significant drop in residential dwellings and building activity across the NT. Despite the decline, the construction industry remains the third largest employer (10.1% of total employment) in the NT.

The combined government and community services industry also remains a major employer in the NT, making up 37.9% of total employment. In the year to August 2018, the combined industries decreased by 0.6%, resulting from a decrease in the education and training, and public administration and safety sectors.

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 fly-in fly-out (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.

Inbound

There are a large number of people who work in the NT on a 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.

At the 2016 Census, there were around 8,700 FIFO workers in the NT, 3,500 more than at the 2011 Census. Much of the increase was in the construction industry, with an additional 1,600 FIFO workers in 2016, reflecting the impact of major projects on FIFO numbers in the NT.

Despite the downturn in the industry over the past few years, mining continues to be a major contributor to the number of FIFO workers in the NT, with over one third of the NT’s mining workforce resident in other jurisdictions. The third largest industry for FIFO workers in the NT is the professional, scientific and technical services industry, which is also closely related to the mining industry and major projects.

Smaller but still significant contributions come from the public sector, reflecting both the large military presence in the NT, as well as the difficulty in recruiting specialist medical staff, particularly in remote locations (Table 3).

Outbound

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. At the 2016 Census, there were around 1,700 outbound FIFO workers from the NT.

The majority of these FIFO’s travelled to Western Australia (about 26.9% of total outbound FIFO workers), Queensland (about 23.3%) and New South Wales (about 22.1%), likely to engage in temporary work in the construction or resources sectors. Other FIFO workers went to Victoria (about 12.8%) and South Australia (about 10.4%), and a small number travelled to the Australian Capital Territory (about 2.7%) and Tasmania (about 1.3%) for temporary employment.

Families

The employment status of parents with young families provides some insight into the economic wellbeing of families with dependents. In 2016-17, there was an estimated total of 62,500 families living in the NT, an increase of 4.7% (or 2,800 families) from 2015‑16. This comprised about 52,600 coupled families, 7,900 one parent families, and 1,900 other families (includes families of related individuals residing in the same household who are not a couple or one parent family, for example a brother and a sister).

Within couple families, the number of families with at least one child aged under 15 years increased by 2.7% to 22,700 in 2016-17. Within this category there was about 62.6% or 14,200 families who had both parents employed, which increased by 12.7% from 2015-16, with the majority employed in a full‑time position. The number of families with only one parent employed full‑time decreased by 12.7% from 2015-16, to 6,200 families, representing about 27.3% of families within this category in 2016-17. The number of families with at least on child aged under 15 years in which neither parent was employed decreased by 4.2% to 2,300 in 2016‑17 (Chart 3).

Unemployment

The NT labour market comprised an average of 6,119 unemployed persons in the year to October 2018, reporting an increase of about 17.0% compared to the previous year.

As a result, the NT’s unemployment rate averaged 4.3% in the year, being the second lowest rate of all jurisdictions, behind the Australian Capital Territory (Chart 4). Across the other jurisdictions, the average annual unemployment rate ranged from 4.8% New South Wales to 6.2% in Western Australia. Over the same period, the national unemployment rate averaged 5.4%.

In trend terms, the NT’s unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 4.6% in the month, recording the third lowest rate, equal with New South Wales. Nationally, the unemployment rate declined by 0.1 percentage points to 5.1% in October 2018.

Job status

In the year to October 2018, the increase in unemployed persons in the NT’s labour market was driven by an 18.6% increase in unemployed persons looking for part‑time employment and a 16.5% increase in unemployed persons looking for full‑time employment. The majority of unemployed persons consisted of people searching for full‑time employment (79.4% of total unemployed persons).

Gender

In the year to October 2018, total unemployment comprised about 3,468 males and 2,651 females in the NT’s labour market.

Gender by status

The total number of unemployed males in the NT increased by 27.6%, driven by a 30.3% increase in unemployed males looking for full‑time employment and a 10.3% increase in unemployed males looking for part-time employment.

Over the same period, the total number of unemployed females increased by 5.4%, driven by a 22.8% increase in unemployed females looking for part-time employment, partly offset by a 1.3 per cent decrease in unemployed females looking for full-time employment.

Regions

According to estimates published by the Commonwealth Department of Jobs and Small Business for small area labour markets, the average annual unemployment rate increased across all of the NT regions in 2017-18. Despite having the lowest unemployment rate at 3.4%, the Greater Darwin region (which includes Darwin city, Darwin suburbs, Palmerston and Litchfield) was the only region in the NT to record a rate above its five-year annual average of 3.3%.

Across the other regions, the Barkly and Daly-Tiwi-West-Arnhem regions recorded the greatest increase of 0.6 percentage points in the annual average unemployment rate, resulting in the highest unemployment rates (6.6% and 7.2% respectively) (Table 4).

Underemployment

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.

In the year to October 2018, the NT’s annual average underemployment rate was 4.2%, compared to the national average of 8.4%. In the NT, the annual average underemployment rate was higher for females (5.1 %) compared to males (3.5 %). This was consistent with the national level.

Underutilisation

The underutilisation rate is a sum of the number of persons unemployed and the number of persons in underemployment, expressed as a proportion of the labour force.

In the NT, the average annual underutilisation rate was 8.5% in the year to October 2018, compared to 13.8% nationally. Despite the underutilisation rate in the NT being significantly higher than the annual average unemployment rate, it is the lowest underutilisation rate of the jurisdictions. In other jurisdictions, the annual average underutilisation rate ranges from 9.8% in the Australian Capital Territory to 15.9% in Tasmania. In the NT, the average annual underutilisation rate was higher for females (9.1%) compared to males (8.0%).

Participation

In the year to October 2018, the NT’s average annual participation rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points to 76.0%, while the national annual average rate increased by 0.6 percentage points to 65.6% (Chart 5). In trend terms, the NT’s participation rate decreased by 0.4 percentage points to 74.7% in the month, remaining the highest of all jurisdictions. Nationally, the trend participation rate was unchanged at 65.6% in October 2018.

The NT consistently has the highest participation rate of all jurisdictions. This reflects the comparatively young age profile of the NT’s workforce and that employment is often a key motivator for people to move to the NT, whereas unemployment is a key motivator for people to leave.

Gender

The average annual participation rate of males was greater (80.0 %) compared to the average annual participation rate of females (71.8 %) in the NT’s labour market. In the year to October 2018, the participation rate of males decreased by 0.5 percentage points, and decreased by 0.3 percentage points for females.

Regions

The annual average participation rate in Darwin was 5.9 percentage points higher compared to the NT Outback in the year to October 2018, at 78.3% and 72.4%, respectively. Furthermore, the Darwin annual average participation rate increased by 1.1 percentage points, compared to a 2.7 percentage points decline experienced in the NT Outback. This trend primarily relates to the scarcity of jobs in remote regions, where people may give up looking for work and drop out of the labour force.

Gender by region

The annual average male participation rate (82.3% in Darwin and 76.1% in the NT Outback) was higher than the female participation rate in both regions (73.9% in Darwin and 68.8% in the NT Outback). Both male and female participation rates increased in the Darwin region, however decreased in the NT Outback region over this period.

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 hour or more 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.

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.

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 Jobs and Small 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.