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Guide to Unemployment

Released: 14 November 2012 Download PDF

Abstract

The number of unemployed people in the UK is measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and includes people who meet the international definition of unemployment specified by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This ILO definition defines unemployed people as being (i) without a job, have been actively seeking work in the past four weeks and are available to start work in the next two weeks, or (ii) out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next two weeks.

More detail

The number of unemployed people in the UK is measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and includes people who meet the international definition of unemployment specified by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This ILO definition defines unemployed people as being:

  • without a job, have been actively seeking work in the past four weeks and are available to start work in the next two weeks, or

  • out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next two weeks

This definition is used by most other countries, by the Statistical Office of the European Union (Eurostat), and by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Unemployment levels and rates are published each month in the Labour Market Statistical Bulletin. Estimates are available by sex, by age and by duration of unemployment.

Unemployment levels measure the total number of people estimated to be unemployed while unemployment rates allow changes in the labour market to be interpreted in a wider context by allowing for changes in the population. The headline measure of unemployment for the UK is the unemployment rate for those aged 16 and over. Unemployment rates are calculated, in accordance with international guidelines, as the number of unemployed people divided by the economically active population (those in employment plus those who are unemployed). 

Estimates of unemployment are also available for former Government Office Regions (GORs) and at local area level. Regional estimates of total unemployment are measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) while more disaggregated regional unemployment estimates and local area estimates are measured by the Annual Population Survey (APS).

Estimates of total unemployment levels and rates for the UK are available from 1971. Most other unemployment estimates are available from 1992.

Unemployment data are useful for a variety of reasons. Government departments use unemployment estimates along with other labour market indicators for macro-economic and labour market management. Data are also supplied to a range of international organisations such as the European Central Bank. In the social policy domain, unemployment is used as an indicator of relative hardship.

Unemployment is different from the claimant count, which measures only those people who are claiming unemployment-related benefits (Jobseeker's Allowance since 1996). The claimant count is normally the lower measure because some unemployed people are not entitled to claim unemployment-related benefits, or choose not to do so.

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.
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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