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Guide to Claimant Count

Released: 14 November 2012 Download PDF

Abstract

The Claimant Count measures the number of people claiming benefits principally for the reason of being unemployed. Since October 1996 it has been a count of the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance. The Claimant Count does not meet the internationally agreed definition of unemployment specified by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The estimates are sourced from the JobCentre Plus administrative system.

More detail

The Claimant Count measures the number of people claiming benefits principally for the reason of being unemployed. Since October 1996 it has been a count of the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s allowance. The Claimant Count does not yet include people claiming Universal Credit - a new benefit which has so far only been introduced in a small number of Jobcentre Plus offices (see below for further details). The Claimant Count does not meet the internationally agreed definition of unemployment specified by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The estimates are sourced from the JobCentre Plus administrative system.

The Claimant Count includes people who claim Jobseeker’s Allowance but who do not receive payment. For example some claimants will have had their benefits stopped for a limited period of time by Jobcentre Plus; this is known as “sanctioning”. Some people claim Jobseeker’s Allowance in order to receive National Insurance Credits.

The count of claimants of unemployment related benefits, which is known as the Claimant Count, is based on the administrative records of people claiming these benefits. Since October 1996, this has been the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA). The Claimant Count consists of all people claiming JSA at Jobcentre Plus local offices. They must declare that they are out of work, capable of, available for and actively seeking work during the week in which their claim is made.

As well as numbers of people claiming benefits, estimates are also available for Claimant Count rates and proportions. Claimant Count rates for the UK and at Government Office Region (GOR) level are calculated as the Claimant Count level divided by the sum of the Claimant Count plus the total number of jobs. Claimant Count proportions are available at local area level. These are calculated as the number of claimants resident in an area as a percentage of the working-age population of that area.

Claimant Count estimates for the UK are available seasonally adjusted by sex, age and duration of claim. This level of detail is also available not seasonally adjusted for GORs. Estimates for the total Claimant Count not seasonally adjusted are available at local area level. Claimant Count estimates are available from 1971. Claimant Count levels and rates are published each month in the Labour Market Statistical Bulletin and on the NOMIS ® website.

People who qualify for JSA through their National Insurance contributions are eligible for a personal allowance for a maximum of six months. This is contribution-based JSA. People who do not qualify for contribution-based JSA can claim a means-tested allowance. This is income-based JSA. Those claiming JSA enter into a Jobseeker’s agreement. This sets out the action they will take to find work and to improve their prospects of finding employment.

The seasonally adjusted Claimant Count series, which goes back to 1971 for the UK, is estimated on a basis consistent with the current benefits regime, that is, it has been adjusted for discontinuities in coverage. The non-seasonally adjusted series includes all claimants aged 16 and over while the seasonally adjusted series includes all claimants aged 18 and over. This difference in coverage exists because restricting the seasonally adjusted series to those aged 18 and over was the only realistic way of maintaining the consistent series back to 1971, following a rule change in 1988 which resulted in most 16 to 17-year-olds becoming ineligible to claim unemployment-related benefits.

Claimant Count rates for the UK and for Government Office Regions (GORs) are calculated as the number of claimants who are resident in each area as a percentage of workforce jobs plus the claimant count. Workforce jobs are the sum of:

  • employee jobs

  • self-employment jobs

  • HM Armed Forces

  • Government-Supported trainees

The largest part, the employee jobs, represents jobs by the location of the employer. The estimate of workforce jobs therefore, tends to reflect the location of jobs rather than the residence of jobholders.

At local area level, comparisons are published in the form of the Claimant Count expressed as a proportion of the local resident population of working age. These proportions avoid distortions to rates, which would be caused by commuting patterns, if they were calculated as above for smaller areas.

There is a large degree of overlap between the Claimant Count and unemployment although the latter figures are generally higher. People who are not claimants can appear among the unemployed if they are not entitled to unemployment related benefits. For example:

  • people who are only looking for part-time work

  • young people under 18 are not usually eligible to claim JSA

  • students looking for vacation work

  • people who have left their job voluntarily

Some people recorded in the Claimant Count would not be counted as unemployed. For example, in certain circumstances people can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance while they have relatively low earnings from part-time work. These people would not be unemployed.

Estimates of inflows onto the claimant count and outflows from the count are published every month. To make comparisons over time consistent, these estimates are standardised to a 41/3 week month before seasonal adjustment. These estimates for people starting to or ceasing to claim Jobseeker's Allowance can be helpful towards interpreting changes in the claimant count.

Introduction of Universal Credit

The Claimant Count estimates do not yet include claimants of Universal Credit. ONS is working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to include jobseeker Universal Credit claims in the Claimant Count statistics as soon as possible. 

The introduction of Universal Credit started on 29 April 2013 with the introduction of this new benefit in one Jobcentre Plus office (Ashton under Lyne). By 7 April 2014 this has been extended to a further nine Jobcentre Plus Offices. Further information for dates of roll out to UC can be found in List of Jobcentre Plus Offices under Universal Credit.

Three further offices will take claims from Summer 2013 and the roll out of Universal Credit across the rest of the UK will commence in October 2013. Universal Credit will replace a number of means-tested benefits including the means-tested element of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). It will not replace contributory based JSA.

The Claimant Count measures the number of people claiming benefits principally for the reason of being unemployed. Since October 1996 it has been a count of the number of people claiming JSA. Following a consultation in 2012 by ONS, it was agreed that, with the introduction of Universal Credit, the Claimant Count would include:

• people claiming contribution-based JSA (which is not affected by the introduction of Universal Credit),

• people claiming means-tested JSA during the transition period while this benefit is being gradually phased out, and

• people claiming Universal Credit who are not earning and who are subject to a full set of labour market jobseeker requirements, that is required to be actively seeking work and available to start work.

Background notes

  1. Enquiries relating to labour market statistics should be directed to Richard Clegg, Labour Market Division, Office for National Statistics.

    Phone +44 (0)1633 455400

    Email labour.market@ons.gsi.gov.uk

  2. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

Supporting information

Further information

Interpreting Labour Market Statistics - The purpose of this article is to help users of labour market statistics interpret the statistics and highlight some common misunderstandings.
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