HC Deb 22 February 1995 vol 255 c205W
Mr. Bell

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many changes there have been to statistics calculating the numbers unemployed since 1988; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Oppenheim

Like most developed countries the United Kingdom publishes both an administrative and a survey based measure of unemployment. In the United Kingdom the administrative source involves a count of people claiming unemployment-related benefits. The monthly claimant count is more frequent and more timely than the survey-based measure and also gives figures for very small areas. However, in common with other statistics based on administrative systems, the monthly claimant count has inevitably been subject to changes in coverage whenever there have been changes to the administrative procedures on which the statistics are based. These changes are taken into account in the consistent, seasonally adjusted series published by the Employment Department. The latter series allows consistent comparisons over time which are free from distortions and properly adjusted for seasonality.

Since 1979 there have been nine changes to the coverage of the monthly unemployment count which have had a discernible effect on the figures, three of which have taken place since 1988.

Details of these changes are given in an article in the December 1990 issue of Employment Gazette entitled "Monthly Unemployment Statistics: Maintaining a Consistent Series" and on page S16 of the April 1994 Employment Gazette; copies of both these documents are available in the Libarary.

The survey measure of unemployment from the Labour Force Survey is based on ILO guidelines and is entirely independent of the benefit system. Data have been available consistently since spring 1984 on an annual basis and since spring 1992 on a quarterly basis. The LFS provides an internationally comparable measure of unemployment and also provides detailed information on the characteristics of the unemployed not available from the claimant count. In addition, the LFS provides an articulated source of information on employment, unemployment and economic activity.

Further details of both official measures of unemployment can be obtained from the booklet "How Exactly is Unemployment Measured?", a copy of which is available in the Library.

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