Executive summary January to March 2017
Summary of achieved sample size
The achieved sample size for the UK Labour Force Survey (LFS) during January to March 2017 (JM17) was 88,528 individuals in 37,360 households. Please note that there were no NHS households in this period. Compared with the previous quarter October to December 2016 (OD16) this represents an increase of 0.05% in household interviews and an increase of 0.1% in achieved person interviews.
Summary of response rates
Please note that historical reports can be accessed on the ONS website.
In JM17 main response rates were as follows:
- the total response rate for Great Britain excluding imputed cases (Table 2) was 43.2%; this is up 1.2 percentage points on the previous quarter
- the response rate excluding imputed cases (Figure 3) was 54.0% in wave 1 and 37.2% in wave 5; this compares with 54.9% and 36.8% respectively in the previous quarter
- the total response rate for Great Britain including imputed cases (Table 3) was 49%, unchanged on the previous quarter
- of non-response in JM17 (Figure 4), non-contacts comprised 17.2% (up 0.8 percentage points on the previous quarter), circumstantial refusals were 10.1% (down 1.8 percentage points), outright refusals comprised 54.2% (up 1.1 percentage points on the previous quarter) and other refusals comprised the remainder
- the region with the highest accumulated response rate across the 5 waves (Table 6) was “Rest of Yorkshire and Humberside” (54.8%); the lowest was “Inner London” (43.7%)
- the overall proxy response rate (Table 7) was 34%; the highest proxy response rates occur in the 16 to 17 age group (88.3%), in males (38.9%) and in the non-white ethnicity group (42.5%)
- the average income response rate (Table 8) was 86.2%
- the data on attrition rates are shown in Table 9; these data reveal in percentage change terms that those who drop out of the survey between waves 1 and 5, tend to be distributed fairly evenly by main characteristics, but are over-represented in the 20 to 29 age bands, in households with six or more people, employees, and amongst those living in Outer London
Methodological changes in January to March 2011 (JM11) and July to September 2010 (JS10) have impacted response rates. From JM11 a proportion of initial interviews have been conducted by the telephone unit rather than face-to-face as an efficiency measure. Telephone interviews generally have higher levels of non-response. The removal of households with residents aged 75 and older after their initial interview from JS10 also impacts response as these households generally have high response rates. See the 'Questionnaire changes' section for more detail.
Changes to State Pension age were introduced in 2010, which affected labour market and LFS publications, as well as other social surveys. Under the Pensions Act 2011, women's State Pension age will increase more quickly (than originally planned) to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018. From December 2018, the State Pension age for both men and women will start to increase to reach 66 by October 2020.
From JS10, households that only contain respondents aged 75 and older are removed from the sample after their wave 1 interview. This change was introduced to reduce the cost of the survey and reduce the burden on respondents. Households only containing individuals aged 75 or older are largely economically inactive and therefore the value of interviewing these households is greatly reduced when considering the main aims of the LFS. The wave 1 interviews from 75 and older households will receive a larger weight to make them representative of the UK population. This change results in around a 10% reduction in the household sample size and a 7% reduction in the individual sample size.
From JS10, the treatment of “concealed multi-households” on the LFS has also changed. Previously if one sampled address turned out on inspection to be, for example, not one house but six flats, all six flats would be recorded as households and interviews would be attempted with each household. The number of households encountered could be in the hundreds. This was not a practical approach. We decided to harmonise the approach to multi-households across all our social surveys. From JS10, if a concealed multi-household is recorded only one household will be randomly selected to be interviewed.
Following a pilot run in JS10, from JM11 onwards a proportion of wave 1 cases (around 15 to 20%) have been interviewed by the Telephone Unit (TU) as opposed to the traditional face-to-face method (FtF). Sampled addresses are matched to telephone numbers in order to do this. Potential concerns associated with this approach are twofold; that response rates will fall as sampled respondents may be more likely to refuse a telephone survey and that mode effects may be observed in the data collected. This situation will be monitored.
Details of fieldwork issues and new, amended and deleted questions can be found in Section 7.
Summary of quality
The degree to which the statistical product meets user needs for both coverage and content.
The primary purpose of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) is "the prompt publication of key aggregate, whole economy, indicators, for the integrated assessment of labour market conditions" (Review of the Labour Force Survey, ONS, 2002). The “labour market” covers all aspects of people's work, including the education and training needed to equip them for work, the jobs themselves, job-search for those out of work and income from work and benefits.
Users and uses
Users of LFS data often combine it with related data from other sources to provide an overall view of the state of the labour market. One of the most important users of this sort of assessment is the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates in order to meet the government's inflation target.
Other important users of LFS data are HM Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions, because they are responsible for UK economic and labour market policy. They are interested in a variety of indicators of the state of the labour market, including the number of people in employment, the number of hours worked and the number of unemployed people (defined according to the International Labour Organisation - ILO). They often analyse these series by age groups, by regions and by sex. Other government users include the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Home Office, the Health and Safety Executive, the Scottish government, and the Welsh government.
At the international level, LFS data are used by the European Parliament, Council and Commission, the European Central Bank and DG Employment (Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities). It is also used by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organisation.
Other users include local authorities, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Employer's Association, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Employment Studies, the Institute for Public Policy Research, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the Policy Studies Institute, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, academic researchers, the media and the general public.
Strengths and limitations
The strengths of the LFS are that it has the largest coverage of any household survey in the UK and can thus generate statistics for small geographical areas. In addition, the sampling errors are relatively small, as a result of the wave structure and the size of the survey. The survey covers a large range of employment-related variables and non-employment-related variables, allowing cross-linking analyses to be undertaken (for example, earnings against educational attainment).
One of the limitations of the LFS is that the sample design provides no guarantee of adequate coverage of any industry, as the survey is not industrially stratified. The LFS coverage also omits communal establishments, except NHS housing, students in halls of residence and at boarding schools. Members of the armed forces are only included if they live in private accommodation. Also, workers under 16 are not covered.
The definitions of the three economic activity groups – employed, unemployed and economically inactive – that are used in the LFS are the standard International Labour Organisation (ILO) definitions. It should be noted that although the LFS uses ILO definitions, these definitions are not interpreted and applied in exactly the same way in different countries. For example, although “working age” is a common term, different countries have different statutory school leaving and retirement ages. However, Eurostat collects data from member states and adjusts them to produce comparable estimates.
2.2 Summary of quality
The closeness between an estimated result and the (unknown) true value.
The main threats to accuracy are sources of error, namely sampling error and non-sampling error, where non- sampling error includes: coverage error, non-response error, measurement error, processing error and model assumption error.
Many of the sources of non-sampling error are difficult to measure. However, the LFS publishes detailed response rates for all waves of the survey and an overall response rate, including time series (Tables 1 to 5 and Figures 1 to 4). Response rates are also published by government region for each wave during the particular quarter (Table 6). The LFS also publishes proxy response rates (Table 7), response rates for income questions by National Statistics (NS) Socio-Economic Classification (Table 8) and attrition rates (Table 9).
Surveys, such as the LFS, provide estimates of population characteristics rather than exact measures. In principle, many random samples could be drawn and each would give different results, due to the fact that each sample would be made up of different people, who would give different answers to the questions asked. The spread of these results is the sampling variability, which generally reduces with increasing sample size. A confidence interval is a range of values, defined by a lower and upper bound, which indicates the variability of an estimate. Statistical methods are used to calculate the sampling variability from which the confidence interval can be determined. For example, with a 95% confidence interval, it is expected that in 95% of the survey samples, the resulting confidence interval will contain the true value that would be obtained by surveying the whole population.
The LFS routinely publishes details of achieved sample sizes in terms of achieved number of household and person interviews (Table 1 and Figures 1 and 2) and sampling variability for estimates of main variables. Sampling variability (95% confidence intervals) can be found in the ‘Sampling variability' section (Table A11) of the Labour Market Statistics Bulletin.
Table 1: Achieved sample by type of household, January to March 2017
GB UK Includes imputed Excludes imputed Includes imputed Excludes imputed Private households 35,738 31,560 37,360 33,102 Individuals in private households 84,556 72,976 88,528 76,735 NHS Households 0 0 0 0 Individuals in NHS households 0 0 0 0 Total households 35,738 31,560 37,360 33,102 Total individuals 84,556 72,976 88,528 76,735 Source: Office for National Statistics
Download this table Table 1: Achieved sample by type of household, January to March 2017.xls (27.6 kB)
Table 2: Wave specific response rates, Great Britain, excluding imputed households January to March 2017
Wave 1 in JM17 Wave 2 in JM17 Wave 3 in JM17 Wave 4 in JM17 Wave 5 in JM17 Total # % # % # % # % # % # % Eligible households found at selected units 15392 100 14376 100 14386 100 14438 100 14434 100 73026 100 Responding units Total 8308 54.0 6411 44.6 5985 41.6 5486 38.0 5372 37.2 31562 43.2 Full 7909 51.4 5775 40.2 5355 37.2 4905 34.0 4761 33.0 28705 39.3 Partial 399 2.6 636 4.4 630 4.4 581 4.0 611 4.2 2857 3.9 Non-responding units Circumstantial refusal 1554 10.1 1244 8.7 1100 7.6 1016 7.0 683 4.7 5597 7.7 Outright refusal 2788 18.1 3638 25.3 4266 29.7 4619 32.0 4894 33.9 20205 27.7 Refusal to HQ 629 4.1 701 4.9 708 4.9 757 5.2 758 5.3 3553 4.9 Non-contact 2113 13.7 1869 13.0 1592 11.1 1593 11.0 1610 11.2 8777 12.0 Addresses not issued for interviewing Refusal to re-interview n/a n/a 513 3.6 735 5.1 967 6.7 1117 7.7 3332 4.6 Co-operation rate 62.6 53.5 49.6 46.2 45.9 51.8 Contact rate 82.2 81.5 83.2 82.6 82.2 82.3 Source: Office for National Statistics Notes: 1. Excludes households for which response has been imputed. The total response rate is the aggregate response rate for the quarter across all waves, based on all eligible, in-scope households. For a full definition of response categories and the method used to calculate the response rates, see Technical Definitions.
Download this table Table 2: Wave specific response rates, Great Britain, excluding imputed households January to March 2017.xls (30.2 kB)
Table 3: Wave specific response rates, Great Britain, January to March 2017, including imputed households
Wave 1 in JM17 Wave 2 in JM17 Wave 3 in JM17 Wave 4 in JM17 Wave 5 in JM17 Total # % # % # % # % # % # % Eligible households found at selected units 15392 100 14376 100 14386 100 14438 100 14434 100 73026 100 Responding units Total 8308 54.0 7912 55.0 7042 49.0 6464 44.8 6044 41.9 35770 49.0 Full 7909 51.4 5775 40.2 5355 37.2 4905 34.0 4761 33.0 28705 39.3 Partial 399 2.6 636 4.4 630 4.4 581 4.0 611 4.2 2857 3.9 Imputed - - 1501 10.4 1057 7.3 978 6.8 672 4.7 4208 5.8 Non-responding units Circumstantial refusal 1554 10.1 597 4.2 615 4.3 570 3.9 431 3.0 3767 5.2 Outright refusal 2788 18.1 3638 25.3 4266 29.7 4619 32.0 4894 33.9 20205 27.7 Refusal to HQ 629 4.1 701 4.9 708 4.9 757 5.2 758 5.3 3553 4.9 Non-contact 2113 13.7 1015 7.1 1020 7.1 1061 7.3 1190 8.2 6399 8.8 Addresses not issued for interviewing Refusal to re-interview n/a n/a 513 3.6 735 5.1 967 6.7 1117 7.7 3332 4.6 Co-operation rate 62.6 61.6 55.8 52.1 49.8 56.5 Contact rate 82.2 87.6 87.3 86.5 85.4 85.7 Source: Office for National Statistics Notes: 1. The total response rate is the cumulative response rate for the quarter across all waves, based on all eligible, in-scope households. For a full definition of response categories and the method used to calculate the response rates, see Technical Definitions.
Download this table Table 3: Wave specific response rates, Great Britain, January to March 2017, including imputed households.xls (30.2 kB)
Table 4: Wave specific response rates, United Kingdom, January to March 2017, excluding imputed households
Wave 1 in JM17 Wave 2 in JM17 Wave 3 in JM17 Wave 4 in JM17 Wave 5 in JM17 Total # % # % # % # % # % # % Eligible households found at selected units 16059 100 15031 100 14959 100 15115 100 15095 100 76259 100 Responding units Total 8708 54.2 6709 44.6 6257 41.8 5804 38.4 5626 37.3 33104 43.4 Full 8292 51.6 6066 40.4 5625 37.6 5214 34.5 5009 33.2 30206 39.6 Partial 416 2.6 643 4.3 632 4.2 590 3.9 617 4.1 2898 3.8 Non-responding units Circumstantial refusal 1591 9.9 1264 8.4 1114 7.4 1030 6.8 693 4.6 5692 7.5 Outright refusal 2930 18.2 3676 24.5 4292 28.7 4638 30.7 4908 32.5 20444 26.8 Refusal to HQ 648 4.0 707 4.7 711 4.8 759 5.0 760 5.0 3585 4.7 Non-contact 2182 13.6 1965 13.1 1647 11.0 1656 11.0 1671 11.1 9121 12.0 Addresses not issued for interviewing Refusal to re-interview 710 4.7 938 6.3 1228 8.1 1437 9.5 4313 5.7 Co-operation rate 62.8 54.3 50.6 47.5 46.9 52.7 Contact rate 82.4 81.3 83.2 82.6 82.2 82.3 Source: Office for National Statistics Notes: 1. Excludes households for which response has been imputed. The total response rate is the aggregate response rate for the quarter, based on all eligible, in-scope households. See Technical Definitions for a full definition of response categories and the method used to calculate the response rates.
Download this table Table 4: Wave specific response rates, United Kingdom, January to March 2017, excluding imputed households.xls (22.0 kB)
Table 5: Wave specific response rates, United Kingdom, January to March 2017, including imputed households
Wave 1 in JM17 Wave 2 in JM17 Wave 3 in JM17 Wave 4 in JM17 Wave 5 in JM17 Total # % # % # % # % # % # % Eligible households found at selected units 16059 100 15031 100 14959 100 15115 100 15095 100 76259 100 Responding units Total 8708 54.2 8242 54.8 7327 49.0 6800 45.0 6315 41.8 37392 49.0 Full 8292 51.6 6066 40.4 5625 37.6 5214 34.5 5009 33.2 30206 39.6 Partial 416 2.6 643 4.3 632 4.2 590 3.9 617 4.1 2898 3.8 Imputed - - 1533 10.2 1070 7.2 996 6.6 689 4.6 4288 5.6 Non-responding units Circumstantial refusal 1591 9.9 615 4.1 626 4.2 582 3.9 439 2.9 3853 5.1 Outright refusal 2930 18.2 3676 24.5 4292 28.7 4638 30.7 4908 32.5 20444 26.8 Refusal to HQ 648 4.0 707 4.7 711 4.8 759 5.0 760 5.0 3585 4.7 Non-contact 2182 13.6 1081 7.2 1065 7.1 1108 7.3 1236 8.2 6672 8.7 Addresses not issued for interviewing Refusal to re-interview 710 4.7 938 6.3 1228 8.1 1437 9.5 4313 5.7 Co-operation rate 62.8 62.3 56.6 53.2 50.8 57.3 Contact rate 82.4 87.5 87.3 86.6 85.4 85.7 Source: Office for National Statistics Notes: 1. The total response rate is the aggregate response rate for the quarter, based on all eligible, in-scope households. For a full definition of response categories and the method used to calculate the response rates, see Technical Definitions.
Download this table Table 5: Wave specific response rates, United Kingdom, January to March 2017, including imputed households.xls (22.5 kB)
Table 6: Wave specific response rates, January to March 2017, including imputed households, by region
Wave 1 in JM17 Wave 2 in JM17 Wave 3 in JM17 Wave 4 in JM17 Wave 5 in JM17 Total Region Tyne & Wear 57.9 57.5 49.0 51.5 37.9 50.9 Rest of North East 56.9 51.6 44.7 42.8 40.2 47.3 Greater Manchester 57.4 55.1 48.0 45.1 42.1 49.6 Merseyside 53.9 50.0 42.7 38.3 42.3 45.5 Rest of North West 58.1 56.6 53.4 45.1 41.7 51.1 South Yorkshire 55.0 55.9 50.2 42.0 48.0 50.3 West Yorkshire 61.8 60.2 55.2 45.7 40.9 52.7 Rest of Yorkshire and Humberside 61.4 60.2 54.0 51.0 47.1 54.8 East Midlands 54.7 56.7 49.4 46.0 40.2 49.5 West Midlands Metropolitan Council 48.8 51.8 48.2 41.9 35.8 45.3 Rest of West Midlands 52.3 55.9 50.8 50.5 40.2 50.0 East of England 56.0 56.5 49.6 46.2 45.5 50.9 Inner London 46.8 46.0 45.8 40.9 38.8 43.7 Outer London 46.5 50.8 47.0 42.2 38.0 44.9 South East 50.5 54.1 48.5 44.0 44.0 48.2 South West 58.7 61.4 50.5 47.7 44.5 52.6 England 54.0 55.2 49.3 45.1 42.0 49.2 Wales 53.4 56.7 49.4 47.2 43.7 50.1 Strathclyde 57.9 51.4 44.7 43.1 38.1 47.2 Rest of Scotland 51.3 53.5 46.5 38.6 40.5 46.1 Scotland 54.1 52.6 45.7 40.5 39.5 46.6 Northern Ireland 60.0 50.4 49.7 49.6 41.0 50.2 Source: Office for National Statistics Notes: 1. The total response rate is the aggregate response rate for the quarter, based on all eligible, in-scope households. Each wave reported here is an independent sample; for example, the wave 2 response in Jm17 is based on response in that quarter plus the previous quarter (OD16) where it was issued as a wave 1 case.
Download this table Table 6: Wave specific response rates, January to March 2017, including imputed households, by region.xls (23.0 kB)
Table 7: Proxy response, Great Britain, January to March 2017
All responses Proxy % Age Total (16+) 66356 22575 34.0 16-17 1993 1760 88.3 18-19 1744 1342 76.9 20+ 62619 19473 31.1 Sex Total 66356 22575 34.0 Male 31856 12379 38.9 Female 34500 10196 29.6 Ethnicity Total 66356 22575 34.0 White 58786 19353 32.9 Non-white 7517 3192 42.5 Refused 53 30 56.6 Economic activity Total 66356 22575 34.0 (INECAC05) Employees 34502 12309 35.7 Self-Employed 6323 2151 34.0 Government schemes 100 36 36.0 Unpaid family workers 161 39 24.2 ILO Unemployed 1857 684 36.8 Inactive 23413 7356 31.4 Source: Office for National Statistics Notes: 1. For definition of 'unpaid family workers', see Section 7.
Download this table Table 7: Proxy response, Great Britain, January to March 2017.xls (28.2 kB)
Table 8: Income Response Rates by NS-SEC, Great Britain, January to March 2017
Wave 1 in JM16 Wave 5 in JM17 Total NS-SEC % % % Higher managerial and professional 86.2 90.9 88.2 Lower managerial and professional 86.8 88.9 87.7 Intermediate occupations 83.7 88.6 85.6 Small employers and own account workers 94.1 92.3 93.3 Lower supervisory and technical 84.7 85.2 84.9 Semi-routine occupations 83.7 87.9 85.4 Routine occupations 81.7 82.1 81.9 Total 85.0 88.0 86.2 Source: Office for National Statistics Notes: 1. The percentages in Table 4.9 are based on all eligible in-scope respondents at wave 1 and all eligible in-scope respondents at wave 5. The total response rate is the aggregate response rate for income for the quarter (wave 1 and wave 5), based on all eligible, in-scope respondents.
Download this table Table 8: Income Response Rates by NS-SEC, Great Britain, January to March 2017.xls (20.0 kB)
Table 9: Summary of attrition by key characteristics, Great Britain, January to March 2017
Wave 1 in JM16 Wave 5 in JM17 Responds Responds Responds all waves Non-responder Age <16 22.0 20.8 16.9 23.1 16-19 4.4 3.9 3.5 4.9 20-29 11.6 8.2 5.6 14.9 30-39 13.2 11.6 8.7 14.8 40-49 14.4 14.0 13.6 14.7 50-59 14.5 15.4 16.2 13.6 60-69 13.1 17.0 22.8 9.2 70+ 6.9 9.1 12.8 4.8 Sex Male 48.2 48.1 48.2 48.2 Female 51.8 51.9 51.8 51.8 Econ Activity Employees 40.8 39.7 36.8 41.9 (INECAC05) Self Emp 7.4 7.0 6.5 7.8 GovTraining Scheme 0.1 0.1 0.1 0.1 UPFW(Unpaid Family Workers) 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.1 ILO Unemp 2.6 2.2 2.0 2.9 Inactive 26.9 29.9 37.5 24.0 Number of people in household 1 9.3 10.8 13.7 7.8 2 29.3 32.9 38.9 25.7 3 20.9 19.7 17.4 22.0 (TOTNUM) 4 24.0 22.4 18.3 25.5 5 10.9 10.2 8.3 11.6 6 or more 5.7 4.0 3.4 7.4 Region Tyne & Wear 1.8 1.7 1.6 1.9 (GOVTOR) Rest of North East 2.6 2.5 2.0 2.7 Greater Manchester 4.8 5.0 4.5 4.7 Merseyside 2.3 2.3 2.1 2.4 Rest of North West 5.0 5.2 4.6 4.8 South Yorkshire 2.5 2.8 2.3 2.3 West Yorkshire 3.9 3.8 2.9 4.1 Rest of Yorkshire and Humberside 2.8 3.2 3.4 2.3 East Midlands 7.7 7.7 7.9 7.8 West Midlands Metropolitan Council 4.8 4.2 4.0 5.3 Rest of West Midlands 4.6 4.4 4.7 4.9 East of England 10.0 10.6 11.7 9.5 Inner London 3.7 2.7 2.8 4.8 Outer London 8.1 6.4 6.2 9.8 South East 13.2 14.7 15.5 11.8 South West 8.5 9.7 10.8 7.4 Wales 5.1 5.4 5.5 4.7 Strathclyde 3.9 3.4 3.4 4.3 Rest of Scotland 4.6 4.4 4.0 4.7 Source: Office for National Statistics Notes: 1. The column, Wave 1 in JM16 Responds, shows the percentage of responders in each key characteristics category at wave 1. The column, Wave 5 in JM17 Responds, shows the percentage of responders in each key characteristics category at wave 5. A significant decline in the values between waves 1 and 5 denotes a higher rate of attrition than where values are consistent between waves 1 and 5 or higher at wave 5.
Download this table Table 9: Summary of attrition by key characteristics, Great Britain, January to March 2017.xls (34.3 kB)
Timeliness and punctuality
Timeliness refers to the lapse of time between publication and the period to which the data refer. Punctuality refers to the time lag between the actual and planned dates of publication.
To ONS Labour Market Division (LMD)
Scheduled delivery date for file: April 24 2017
Achieved delivery date for file: April 24 2017
Time lag between achieved delivery date and the end of the
reference period: 22 days
Data file for other users
Scheduled availability date for regional public and government normal release user files: May 17 2017
Bank of England
Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Department for Communities and Local Government
Department for Education and Skills
Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland)
Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Department for Transport
Department for Work and Pensions
Department of Finance and Personnel (Northern Ireland)
Economic and Social Research Council and Data Archive
Health and Safety Executive
Low Pay Commission
Office for Standards in Education
Office of Manpower Economics
Scottish government and Scottish Executive Small Business Service
Accessibility and clarity
Accessibility is the ease with which users are able to access the data, also reflecting the format(s) in which the data are available and the availability of supporting information. Clarity refers to the quality and sufficiency of the metadata, illustrations and accompanying advice.
The UK Data Archive at Essex University provides free access to the various LFS datasets.
A highly disaggregated dataset, which covers a wealth of data for local areas, is available free from NOMIS.
Labour market data, including data from the LFS, are published every month through statistical bulletins These include text, tables and charts. Data contained within the bulletins are available to download, free of charge, from the ONS website.
For questions relating to labour market statistics, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
For general queries about the LFS, please contact: email@example.com
The degree to which data can be compared over time and domain.
The Labour Force Survey (LFS) began in 1973 and was carried out every 2 years until 1983. Between 1984 and 1991, data were collected annually and the survey has been running in its present form, with quarterly sampling, since spring 1992. It is carried out under European Union regulations, which specify the way in which the survey should be conducted, the quality of the results that member states supply to Eurostat and the timetable for supplying results. Although the LFS began as a survey designed to meet international obligations, its primary purpose is now (as stated in section 2.1, Relevance), "the prompt publication of key aggregate, whole economy, indicators, for the integrated assessment of labour market conditions" (Review of the Labour Force Survey, ONS, 2002).
The definitions of the three economic activity groups – employed, unemployed and economically inactive – which are used in the LFS are the standard International Labour Organisation (ILO) definitions.
Economically active – those aged 16 or over, who are either employed or unemployed in the survey reference week.
Employed – those aged 16 or over, who are regarded as in employment if they did at least one hour of work in the reference week (as an employee, self-employed, unpaid workers in a family business or participants in government-supported training schemes) and those who had a job that they were temporarily away from (for example, if they are on holiday).
Unemployed – those aged 16 or over, who are without work, want a job, have actively sought work in the last 4 weeks and are available to start work in the next 2 weeks; or are out of work but have found a job and are waiting to start it within the next 2 weeks.
Economically inactive – those who are neither in employment nor unemployed. This group includes, for example, all those who are looking after a home or family, have a long-term illness or disability which prevents them working or are retired.
Unpaid family workers – those who are doing unpaid work in a family business.
New questions for January to March 2017 (JM17): Questions on “self-employment” have been added as an ad-hoc module for 2017, required by Eurostat. Questions added: INTRO17, HWMNYC, WASIT75, WRKHRSW, WHHRSWD, EWHYSE, EWHYMSE, DIFFSE, DIFFMSE, NOEM, NOMEM, PART, PART2, PART3, PLNEMP, PLNEMP2, PLNSB, SATJOB, AUT1JB, QUT2JB, RTHRE, ERTHSE, FRTHSE, WNSE, WNMSE.
Amended questions for January to March 2017 (JM17); Guidance has been amended for NOLOWA for the categories “student” and “looking after the family/home”. Amendments have also been made to the occupation lookup to reflect the new job titles that are emerging.
Deleted questions for January to March 2017 (JM17): No questions have been deleted this quarter.
No fieldwork issues for this period.
See Section 1 for full details of methodological changes; in January and March 2011 (JM11) a change was implemented to move some wave 1 interviews into the telephone unit, rather than being face-to-face interviews as would normally be the case.
The degree to which data that are derived from different sources or methods, but which refer to the same phenomenon, are similar.
The LFS is one of a number of sources of data about the labour market. Some sources provide data that overlap with LFS data on employment, unemployment and earnings. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published guidance about the strengths and limitations of each source in relation to these topics and has indicated which source is the most appropriate for different purposes. Details can be found in the Labour Market Guide.
Employment, unemployment and economic inactivity
The LFS is the source recommended by ONS for certain employment-related statistics (for example, estimates of the number of people in employment or unemployed). The LFS is also a unique source of comprehensive, coherent information about economic inactivity, where it provides information separately about people who want a job and those who do not.
Number and industrial composition of jobs
The workforce jobs (WFJ) series provides estimates of the number of jobs in the UK economy and is the source recommended by ONS for both the number of jobs and the industrial composition of jobs. Workforce jobs consist of the sum of employee jobs, self-employment jobs, jobs in the armed forces and government-supported trainees. Civilian workforce jobs are available by geographical region, sex and broad industry. Total workforce jobs are available by sex and broad industry.
For estimates of change in earnings (for example, pay growth in the economy), a non-LFS source, the Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) (formerly the Average Earnings Index (AEI)) is the most suitable source. It provides industry and whole-economy information, but excludes small employers, the self-employed and government- supported trainees. Pay, commission, bonuses, overtime and pay award arrears are included, but redundancy payments and benefits in kind are excluded.
The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) includes information about the levels, distribution and make-up of earnings and hours worked for employees in different occupations, industries, ages and regions. It should be used when the information required is not available from the AWE (such as for occupational groups, or regional analyses), and is the preferred source of the earnings of full-time employees, and of the average hourly earnings of all employees.
The LFS should be used when the information is not available from the AWE or from ASHE, and is the preferred source of data about the earnings of part-time and low-paid employees. There is an ONS guide to sources of data on earnings and income.
Summary of methods
The LFS covers private households, including persons who are temporarily absent. The resident population comprises persons who regard the sample address as their main address, and also those who have lived in the dwelling for more than 6 consecutive months, even if they do not regard this as their principal dwelling. Persons absent for more than 6 months are not regarded as members of the resident population. A private household comprises one or more persons whose main residence is the same dwelling and/or who share at least one meal per day. Students living in halls of residence and pupils at boarding school are sampled via the private households of their parents. In Great Britain, an additional sample is drawn from persons living in National Health Service accommodation.
The year is divided into quarters of 13 weeks. Prior to January 2006, these were seasonal quarters: winter (December to February), spring (March to May), summer (June to August) and autumn (September to November). From January 2006, the LFS has been conducted on the basis of calendar quarters: Quarter 1 - January to March, Quarter 2 - April to June, Quarter 3 - July to September and Quarter 4 - October to December.
For most of Great Britain, the survey base is the Royal Mail's PAF (Postcode Address File), a database of all addresses receiving mail. The list is limited to addresses receiving fewer than 25 items of post per day, so as to exclude businesses. Because of the very low population density in the far north of Scotland (north of the Caledonian Canal), telephone directories are used as sampling frames, and interviews are carried out by telephone because face-to-face interviews would be too expensive. In Northern Ireland POINTER, which is the government's central register of domestic properties, is used.
In Great Britain, a systematic sample is drawn each quarter from the three sampling bases, yielding 16,640 PAF addresses, 75 telephone numbers for the north of Scotland and 36 units of National Health Service housing. As the PAF is broken down geographically, the systematic sampling ensures that the sample is representative at regional level. In Northern Ireland, a simple random sample is drawn, each quarter, from each of three strata, giving 650 addresses in all.
A rotation system comprising 5 waves is used. Respondents are interviewed five times at 13-week intervals and one-fifth of the sample is replaced each quarter. Interviews are carried out on a face-to-face (CAPI) or telephone (CATI) basis with the help of portable computers for the interviews in the first wave. In the far north of Scotland (north of the Caledonian Canal) and for interviews in the second to fifth waves, wherever possible, interviews are carried out by telephone.
If a household (or someone within a household) is unavailable for interview, but was interviewed in the previous wave, responses from the previous wave are rolled forward. This is referred to as “imputation”. Imputation is carried out to minimise non-response bias in estimates, while simultaneously improving precision by boosting the sample size. The rationale is that most LFS variables do not change from one quarter to another for most people. Responses are rolled forward for one wave only. Data are not rolled forward after a second consecutive non- response. Tables and charts (at person or household level) containing responses that have been rolled forward from the previous wave are denoted by the term “including imputed”. Tables and charts which do not contain responses that have been rolled forward from the previous wave are denoted by the term “excluding imputed”.
Method of calculating sampling variability
The sampling variability is the spread of results that would be obtained if different samples were drawn. A confidence interval is a range of values, defined by a lower and upper bound, which indicates the variability of an estimate. Statistical methods are used to calculate the sampling variability from which the confidence interval can be determined. For example, with a 95% confidence interval, it is expected that in 95% of the survey samples, the resulting confidence interval will contain the true value that would be obtained by surveying the whole population.
Method of calculating response rates
The response rate indicates how many interviews were achieved as a proportion of those eligible for the survey. The formula used is as follows:
RR = (FR + PR)/(FR + PR + OR + CR + RHQ + NC + RRI*)
where RR = response rate, FR = full response, PR = partial response, OR = outright refusal, CR = circumstantial refusal, RHQ = refusal to HQ, NC = non contact, RRI = refusal to re-interview, *applies to waves 2 to 5 only.
Definitions of response outcome categories
A full response denotes a household in which each household member has answered all applicable questions.
A partial response denotes a household in which questions were not completed because someone refused to be interviewed, refused part way through the questionnaire or refused to let someone else answer on his or her behalf. However, at least one question block must have been completed. If only part information has been collected for a one-person household, it is coded as a refusal or non-contact.
An outright refusal is a household that refuses to respond to the survey and the interviewer feels that there is no chance of an interview at the current or in any future wave.
A circumstantial refusal is a household where the respondent refuses to respond because of a temporary circumstance (for example, going on holiday, too busy during the field period). A circumstantial refusal enables an interviewer to call back at the next wave.
A refusal to HQ is a household that contacts headquarters to refuse to participate in the survey in response to the advance letter.
A non-contact arises when an address is occupied, but where it has not been possible to contact any member of the household in the field period.
A refusal to re-interview is a household that takes part in the survey (at one or more of waves 1 to 4) but which, when asked to take part in the next wave (waves 2 to 5), refuses.
Method of calculating income response rates
The income question is asked at wave 1 and wave 5 only. Individuals aged 16 to 69 who are in employment in the reference week, form the sub-set of respondents who are eligible for these questions. The percentage response rates for the income questions are based on all eligible, in-scope respondents at wave 1 and all eligible, in-scope respondents at wave 5. The total response rate is the aggregate response rate for income for the quarter (wave 1 and wave 5), based on all eligible, in-scope respondents.
NS-SEC is the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification, which replaces previous classifications which were based on social class and social and economic group.
The LFS has to complete fieldwork to a tight timetable and interview as many of the sampled households as possible, which leaves limited time for recalls. LFS interviewers try to interview every adult (aged 16 and over) in each sampled household. However, when a household member is unavailable for interview, interviewers accept information by proxy from another responsible adult in the household. The proxy respondents are normally people living with a partner on behalf of their partner, and parents on behalf of their adult offspring who live with them.
Attrition is the term applied to respondents who begin the survey but subsequently drop out. It has been known for some time that these respondents tend to have different characteristics to those who remain in all waves of the survey, which can, therefore, result in attrition bias. For example, if respondents in a particular age band have a higher tendency to drop out (attrition rate) than respondents in other age bands, then they will be under- represented in subsequent waves of the survey and in estimates.
Labour Force Survey performance and quality monitoring report, January to March 2017
Response rates, sample size and quality assessment of the Office for National Statistics's quarterly Labour Force Survey.