Employment by industry statistics: a quick guide

Updated 8 July 2020

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Penny Vandenbroek
Statistics and Mapping


This guide provides a brief overview of employment by industry and lists some relevant data sources. This is one in a series of statistical quick guides, designed to provide a basic understanding of Australian labour market data. Other guides are available from the Parliamentary Library website.

Who are employed people?

The International Labour Organization (ILO) (p. 21) describes employed people as those of working age who during a short reference period (for example, a week) engaged in ‘any activity to produce goods or provide services for pay or profit’. This includes employed persons ‘at work’ (i.e. at least one hour) and those who were ‘not at work’, either temporarily, or due to working-time arrangements (for example, a shift roster).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) measure of employment relates to people aged 15 years and over who during the survey reference week worked for one hour or more for some form of remuneration, or without pay in a family business or on a farm, or were people who had a job but were temporarily not at work (for example, on leave or temporarily stood down). More detail is provided in the quick guide, Employment statistics.

How are industries classified?

Industries are defined through the ABS, Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 2.0) (cat. no. 1292.0). The ANZSIC allows for the grouping of businesses that undertake similar activities, enabling like businesses to be grouped without duplication. A business includes any entity undertaking productive activities, including companies, not-for-profit organisations, government departments and enterprises.

The ANZSIC has a hierarchical structure with four levels:

  • Division (broadest level, or 1-digit)
  • Subdivision (2-digit)
  • Group (3-digit) and
  • Class (finest level, or 4-digit).

The division level has 19 categories, each identified by a letter (A to S). Subsequent levels are labelled using numbers (two, three or four digits).

Box listing example of the ANZSIC hierachical structure

Many labour statistics are released at the division level, to allow some cross-classification by other characteristics, such as sex, a person’s state/territory of usual residence, or income. Additional information on the concepts and methods underpinning the classification is available from ANZSIC (see Chapters 2, 3 and 4).

How is a job allocated to an industry?

Industry of employment relates to the activities undertaken by the business for which a person works. Where a person works in more than one job, the industry classification usually relates to their main job. Depending on the statistical source, ‘main job’ is the one in which a person usually works the most hours, however, it is sometimes the one in which a person receives the most income. Some sources also provide details on a person’s second or subsequent jobs.

For ABS household surveys, industry data is automatically coded to an industry index based on a survey participant’s responses. Participants are asked to describe what kind of business or service is carried out at the place where they work. Using the example of cafes and restaurants, this may include activities such as delivering food or drinks, taking orders, or receiving cash. Participants are also asked to provide the name of their business or employer, to assist with coding when the activity descriptions prove difficult to match.

For ABS business surveys, industry data is coded to the industry index according to the productive activity of a responding employer. Apart from directly contacting employers to ask questions about their employees and business operation, the ABS also releases administrative data, such as that from the Linked Employer-Employee Dataset (LEED). The LEED draws on personal income tax data (provided by the Australian Tax Office) in combination with analytical business data. The results are output through a range of releases, including Jobs in Australia.

What are the key ABS sources for industry data?

The ABS produces industry estimates through a series of labour releases. The most relevant are briefly described, with an emphasis on free published data. Appendix 1 also provides a matrix which can be used to look up industry by particular characteristics for selected data sources.

Labour Force, detailed, quarterly (cat. no. 6291.0.55.003)

This release provides a range of industry employment estimates (main job) in trend, seasonally adjusted and original series. More detailed industry levels (e.g. group) and division level by other characteristics (e.g. sex, hours worked), are included. Regional (Statistical Area Level 4, SA4) data is available by industry division. The same release provides occupation estimates.

Jobs in Australia (cat. no. 6160.0)

This release provides information on jobs by industry, including counts of jobs by different types of job holders. Most industry data can be cross-classified by sex, by median employment income (per job) or by smaller geographic areas (e.g. Statistical Area Level 2, SA2s).

Labour Account Australia (cat. no. 6150.0.55.003)

The ABS suggests this is the most comprehensive source for industry estimates, as it includes adjustments to allow for additional jobs/workers (e.g. second jobs, defence workers, non-resident workers and child workers). This data set allows for person and job level analysis, contains hours (volume), payments and labour costs. Data is only available at the division level and is not available for states or regions.

Characteristics of employment (cat. no. 6333.0)

This release contains estimates of employees by industry division (main job) and a range of other characteristics.

Employee earnings and hours (cat. no. 6306.0)

This release includes employee estimates by division level by earnings and other selected characteristics, such as methods of setting pay (e.g. award).

Average weekly earnings (cat. no. 6302.0)

This release contains limited data on employees by industry, including: full-time adult ordinary time earnings, full-time adult total earnings and total earnings, each by sex.

Census of Population and Housing

This source provides detailed industry data (e.g. group) by a range of socio-economic and demographic characteristics, as well as by a range of geographical areas (including Commonwealth Electoral Divisions). The Census is run every five years and was last held in August 2016.

Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0)

This (annual) release provides estimates of employment and business activities, such as income, expenses, operating profit before tax, depreciation, and industry added value. Division and subdivision data are available by state/territory. Size of business is provided by division.

Weekly payroll jobs and wages in Australia (cat. no. 6160.0.55.001)

An experimental ABS release providing percentage change updates to employee jobs (and wages) from the 100th confirmed case of COVID-19 (week ending 14 March 2020) and selected periods. It includes industry division by state/territory, by sex or by selected ages, as well as industry subdivision (no further breakdowns).

What are some of the key measures?

Following are some examples of industry data available based on the above mentioned sources.

Employment by industry (head count)

Table 1 (on the next page) provides the number of employed people (trend) for each industry, the percentage change reflects the difference in the number of workers between the two periods. This table is based on person level data, that is, how many people worked in each industry (main job). It is also possible to analyse industry by the number of filled jobs (provides a higher estimate than persons) or job holders (encompasses secondary and sometimes subsequent jobs).

Table 1. Snapshot of employment by industry(a)—March 2019 to March 2020 (trend)

Table 1 showing snapshot of employment by industry March 2019 to March 2020 (trend)

(a) Industry of main job (most hours usually worked).
(b) Based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (R2.0), cat. no 1292.0.
Source: ABS, Labour Account Australia, March 2020, cat. no. 6150.0.55.003

Share of industry employment (per cent)

Figure 1 (below) provides a visual representation of the number of people employed by each industry as a share of total employment (the sum of the components adds to the total). The calculations are based on data presented in Table 1.

Figure 1. Industry share of total employment—March 2020 (trend)

Figure 1 showing graph of industry share of total employment March 2020 (trend)

Table 2. Share of employed persons by industry(a)—selected years to March 2020 (trend)

Table 2 showing share of employed persons by industry selected years to March 2020 (trend)

(a) Industry of main job (most hours usually worked).
(b) Based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industry Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (R2.0), cat. no 1292.0.
Source: ABS, Labour Account Australia, March 2020, cat. no. 6150.0.55.003

Figure 2 (below) provides industry division by sex, but other demographic and/or employment characteristics are available from a suite of ABS labour releases (see pp. 2-3).

Figure 2. Men's and women's top five industries, with comparison data—Feb 2020(a)(b)(c)

Figure 2 showing graph of Men's and women's top five industries, with comparison data Feb 2020

(a) Annual average of four quarters of original data ending Feb 2020.
(b) Industry employment as a proportion of total male or total female employment.
(c) Only two industries were in the ‘top five’ for both sexes — Retail Trade and Professional, Scientific and Technical Services.
Source: ABS, Labour force, detailed, quarterly, Feb 2020, cat. no. 6291.0.55.003

Where do I find regional employment?

The Labour Market Information Portal provides a summary of the ABS quarterly industry (division) data by labour force regions (SA4s). For each region the website also includes summary labour force indicators, occupation data, and population data.

The ABS Jobs in Australia data set provides industry division by various geographic regions, including very small areas (SA2s) and Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Where do I find data on casual workers?

Data on employees without paid leave entitlements is generally used as a proxy for ‘casuals’. The ABS provides industry division by casuals in the quarterly Labour force (see’ Status in employment’) and in the annual release, Characteristics of Employment.

Where do I find wages (earnings)?

There are three main ABS sources for earnings by industry: Characteristics of Employment, Employee Earnings and Hours and Jobs in Australia. Each source differs in what can be cross-classified by industry, such as median hourly earnings, or earnings by rate of pay. See the matrix in Appendix 1 for data availability.

Where can I find selected industry data?


‘Tourism’ is not an industry in the conventional sense, in that it does not fit neatly into a specific classification within ANZSIC. Whether the production is included in the scope of tourism (or not) depends on the characteristics of the consumer. For example, expenditure on a restaurant meal by a visitor contributes to tourism’s share of the economy, whereas expenditure by a local resident at the same restaurant does not. The 2012 ABS Year Book article, 'Tourism industry' (cat. no. 1301.0) provides further detail on the concept and measurement of ‘tourism’.

Employment figures are published in the annual release, Australian National Accounts: Tourism Satellite Account (cat. no. 5249.0). The ABS advises that the intent of the collection is to provide information on the contribution of the ‘industry’ to the overall production of goods and services in the economy and that estimates of employment are merely a by-product of this process. It does, however provide estimates of workers involved in direct tourism industries (e.g. Retail, Casinos), by sex and by employment status. Appendix 1 of the publication includes a ‘Tourism industry’ correspondence to the ANZSIC.

State/territory data is available from Tourism Research Australia based on the ABS annual release.

ICT sector (digital workers)

The Australian Computer Society publishes an annual snapshot of the digital economy and workforce, Australia’s digital pulse (from 2015 onwards). Earlier information is available from Australian ICT Statistical Compendium. The reports include estimates of employment (ABS data), workforce skills, ICT workers by industry, future demand for ICT workers, university students enrolled in ICT and migration of ICT workers. Some business indicators (e.g. trade and investment in ICT, innovation and start-ups) are also included.


Farmers are generally people who work in the ‘Agriculture, forestry and fishing’ division, with the subdivision ‘Agriculture’ of most relevance. Industry group provides more nuanced data, for example on people working in ‘Sheep, beef cattle and grain farming’ or ‘Fruit and tree nut growing’. For an estimate of the number of ‘farmers’, however, the occupation framework allows for identification of people who were a ‘Farmer’ or ‘Farm manager’, as well as various types of ‘Farm workers’. The ABS quarterly Labour force provides detailed occupation data.

ABARES (Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences) produce a range of data and reports on farming and farm-related activities.


Hospitality workers are generally employed by the industry ‘Accommodation and food services’, with some exceptions, such as those who work for a sporting club, live entertainment venue or in a casino. The subdivision ‘Food and beverage services’ covers many hospitality workers, with further classification available at the group level. ‘Hospitality workers’ in the occupation framework allows for greater coverage of people working across the many types of venues. The ABS quarterly Labour force provides detailed occupation data.

Where do I find apprentice and trainee figures?

The NCVER (National Centre for Vocational Education and Research) provides quarterly updates on apprentice and trainee enrolments and completions, as well as more comprehensive annual digests and a range of research papers.

The ABS also publishes estimates of apprentices and trainees by limited industries in their annual release, Education and Work (see Tables 19-20).

Where do I find trade union membership?

The ABS publishes estimates of employees by trade union membership status and industry every two years in Characteristics of Employment (see Table 3 of the August 2018 release).

Where do I find projected employment growth?

The Labour Market Information Portal provides industry projections to May 2024 (based on the five years from May 2019), including by labour force regions (SA4s).

Does any data set provide a ‘whole of business’ view?

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) data set provides data on all people employed by a business, from senior to junior roles. Data can be analysed by industry through the interactive tool, Data Explorer. In 2018–19 the data set covered more than four million employees, representing about 40% of the total Australian labour force. Note the data excludes the public sector and businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Where are industry award conditions listed?

The Fair Work Ombudsman provides a list of (modern) awards, which outline the minimum wages and conditions for employees. The list can be browsed by industry and occupation.

Appendix 1. Where can I find ABS industry data by ...?

The following matrix provides an indication of where to find industry data by particular characteristics for selected ABS sources. This is not an exhaustive list with additional sources noted in this paper.

Appendix 1 list of ABS sources for finding industry data


(a) Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing are excluded from the industry data. Median earnings are limited to a sub-set of employed.
(b) A proxy is used for this item – employees without paid leave entitlements.
(c) Available every two years.
(d) This item is also referred to as 'Business size' and 'Employer size'.


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