ONS has decided that, with effect from the Labour Market Statistics releases to be published on 15 March 2017, to remove the Claimant Count series from the UK and Regional Statistical Bulletins, as it may now be providing a misleading representation of the UK labour market. Claimant Count data will continue to be available as datasets on the ONS website and via NOMIS.
The Claimant Count measures the number of people claiming unemployment-related benefits. Prior to 2013, the Claimant Count was measured using claimants of Jobseeker's Allowance. In 2013 a new service, Universal Credit, which will replace a number of means-tested benefits, including the means-tested element of Jobseeker's Allowance, began to be rolled out. From the introduction of Universal Credit, those claimants who were receiving the benefit for unemployment reasons were included in the Claimant Count.
Universal Credit is designed so that a broader span of claimants is required to look for work than under Jobseeker's Allowance. This means that once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, the Claimant Count is likely to be higher than it would otherwise be under Jobseeker's Allowance.
From June 2015 the Claimant Count statistics have been designated as experimental, due to the impact of Universal Credit on the count. At this stage, although Universal Credit was having an impact, given the gradual phased roll-out it was very small, and ONS felt that the Claimant Count was still providing a useful indicator of the UK labour market.
However, the impact has increased as roll-out has progressed. One reason the Universal Credit series was experimental is that there was an insufficiently long time series accurately to ascertain its seasonality. It was assumed it would have a similar seasonal pattern to Jobseeker’s Allowance. However, as roll-out has progressed it has become clear that this is not the case, with the consequence that the seasonally-adjusted claimant count series has become more volatile.
As a result, we believe the Claimant Count may now be providing a misleading representation of changes in the UK labour market. Given the ongoing process of Universal Credit roll-out and future planned expansions, these problems are likely to persist for some time. Consequently, we will no longer include the Claimant Count in the UK Labour Market and Regional Labour Market statistical bulletins, with effect from the next editions of these bulletins to be published on 15 March 2017. In the PDF version of the UK Labour Market statistical bulletin, we will discontinue Table 10 (Claimant Count). We will also discontinue Tables 11 (Main Out of Work Benefits) and Table 25-2 (Regional labour market summary) as those tables include Claimant Count data. We will, however, continue to publish Claimant Count data every month in datasets on our website and on the NOMIS website. We have no plans to discontinue publication of this data.
In addition to seasonal adjustment, the impact of the broader span of claimants covered by the Claimant Count will be most noticeable in areas where Universal Credit is in more progressed phases of roll-out. In particular, those areas where Full Service Universal Credit is in operation are likely to see an increase in the number of claimants.
The status of the Claimant Count will be kept under review to see if, once Universal Credit roll-out is complete, it would be possible to reintroduce it to the bulletins and remove its experimental designation.
We continue to encourage users to interpret monthly movements in the Claimant Count with caution.