1. Background

This report compares the latest workforce jobs (WFJ) estimates with the equivalent estimates of jobs from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). This is produced every quarter, when the latest WFJ estimates are released.

The concept of employment (measured by the LFS as the number of people in work) differs from the concept of jobs, since a person can have more than one job, and some jobs may be shared by more than one person. The LFS, which collects information mainly from residents of private households, is the preferred source of statistics on employment.

The LFS can also be used to produce estimates of the total number of jobs in the UK, by adding together the headline employment figures (which are equivalent to main jobs) and those for workers with a second job. The WFJ series, which is compiled mainly from surveys of businesses, is the preferred source of statistics on jobs by industry, since it provides a more reliable industry breakdown than the LFS.

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2. Reconciliation estimates spreadsheet

A spreadsheet containing Labour Force Survey and workforce jobs reconciliation estimates is available on our website at data table X03.

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3. Comparison: September 2016

The LFS estimate of total UK jobs for the August to October 2016 3-month period is calculated by adding together the LFS figures for total employment (31.762 million) and workers with second jobs (1.133 million). On comparing this LFS UK jobs estimate (32.895 million) with the corresponding WFJ figure for September 2016, (34.588 million) the LFS total jobs estimate is lower than the WFJ figure by 1.693 million (5.1%).

Figure 1 illustrates this comparison over time. These estimates have not been adjusted for factors causing differences between the 2 sources because many of these factors cannot be measured on a quarterly basis. Over the latest comparable quarterly periods, the LFS series shows a quarterly decrease of 3,000 jobs (0%) and the WFJ series shows an increase of 58,000 (0.2%). On an annual basis the LFS series shows an increase of 313,000 (1.0 per cent) and the WFJ series shows an increase of 529,000 (1.6%).

The 2006 National Statistics Quality Review of Employment and Jobs Statistics identified about 30 reasons why the LFS and WFJ estimates of jobs can differ from each other. Some of these factors can be quantified approximately using information from the LFS and other sources, while others are much more difficult to measure. The measurable factors causing differences between the LFS and WFJ figures are included in a downloadable spreadsheet within the “download chart” option of this report.

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4. Reconciliation

There have been revisions to estimates of Workforce Jobs going back several years caused by benchmarking to the latest estimates from the annual Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES), updating seasonal factors and taking on board late information. There have been further revisions going back to the start of the series in 1959 resulting from some methodological improvements.

Figure 2 shows the 2 jobs series adjusted to take into account the measurable factors causing differences between the LFS and WFJ statistics. Once these factors have been taken into consideration, the adjusted LFS estimate of total UK jobs is lower than the adjusted WFJ estimate, by 1,096,000 (3.3%).

The difference between the adjusted LFS and WFJ estimates (1,096,000) is beyond the likely bounds of the sampling variability of the difference. The approximate sampling variability (95% confidence interval) is roughly plus or minus 300,000 to plus or minus 400,000. However, it should be noted that the adjustments are themselves subject to a margin of uncertainty, and there are other factors causing differences between the 2 sources which have not been adjusted for. There are about 20 additional factors that could explain the remaining difference between the LFS and WFJ estimates. As well as sampling variability, they include, for example, timing effects. The LFS estimates are averages for 3-month periods, whereas business surveys measure the number of jobs on a particular day.

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Contact details for this Article

Mark Chandler
mark.chandler@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 455995