A THIRD of Australians aged 15 year and over were not in the labour force in September, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed.
Of the more than six million people in this category, just 1.3 million, or 21%, wanted to work.
The figures were contained in the ABS report Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia, September 2012, which was released on Thursday.
"Persons not in the labour force" are considered people who are marginally attached to the labour force, and those who are not.
Someone is considered marginally attached to the labour force if they: want to work and are actively looking for work but were not available to start immediately, or; want a job, are not actively looking for work but are available to start work within four weeks.
A person is considered to be not marginally attached to the labour force if they: do not want to work, or; want to work but are not actively looking for a job and are not available to start within four weeks.
The research found Australia had more than 106,000 "discouraged jobseekers" in September.
Discouraged jobseekers are people who want to work and are available to start within four weeks if offered a job, but do not actively look for a job because they believe they will not find one.
The 106,600 discouraged jobseekers in September was up 18% from 90,700 in 2011, the ABS found.
But the rise represented a return to the numbers prior to 2011, ABS director of labour force Cassandra Gligora said.
"The increase was mostly driven by a rise in the number of male discouraged job seekers - up 31% from 2011," Ms Gligora said.
Discouraged jobseekers reported that their main reason for not looking for work was that they believed they were considered too old by employers (36%) or that there were no jobs in their locality or line of work (20%).
Discouraged jobseekers were part of the 833,700 people who were not in the labour force who wanted work and were available to start work within four weeks, but were not actively looking for work.
Of the 727,200 who were not discouraged jobseekers, the most commonly reported reasons for men not actively looking for work were studying (35%) and own long-term health condition or disability (15%), while for women it was caring for children (31%) and studying (19%).
The main activity for those not in the labour force varied by age. People aged 15-24 years and not in the labour force were most likely to be studying while those aged 60 years or over were mainly retired.
Men aged 35-59 years were most likely to report their main activity as their own long-term health condition or disability whereas for women aged 25-59 years it was home duties or caring for children.
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