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Measuring Unemployment


The Claimant Count

The unemployed are those registered as able, available and willing to work at the going wage rate in any suitable job who cannot find employment.


Unemployment is a flow concept - i.e. there are inflows and outflows from the total. Unemployment falls when more people leave the unemployment register (when they find work) than sign on each month.  The annual average rate of unemployment for the UK since 1971 using the claimant count figures are shown in the chart below.



The Labour Force Survey

In April 1998, the Government introduced a new monthly Labour Force Survey using a different measure of unemployment. The new measure is based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) definition of unemployment. It covers those who have looked for work in the past four weeks and are able to start work in the next two weeks.



The previous monthly count only included those who were unemployed and claiming benefit. This excluded a number of people who are classed as unemployed under the ILO definition.


The most significant group who are now included in the monthly unemployment statistics are women seeking work whose partners are on means tested benefit.


Seasonal Adjustment

This is an adjustment made to economic data that allows for changes due solely to the period of time at which the data was collected, instead of examining the underlying forces in which we may in fact be interested.


For example, at Christmas, the unemployment figures may be artificially reduced due to the number of people taking temporary employment in the retail sector. The seasonally adjusted unemployment figures will exclude this rise in temporary employment from their calculations.  

Further Reading

Counting the unemployed (bbc 14.3.01)
Understanding unemployment (bbc 14.5.98)
Unemployment And Inflation, a PowerPoint presentation
Unemployment And Inflation. A review
Unemployment And Inflation, key facts
Unemployment and Inflation Glossary
Causes of Unemployment and Policies to Reduce it
Unemployment and Inflation Questions
Unemployment and Inflation Multiple Questions



E-mail Steve Margetts