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Navigating Labour Market Statistics

Summary

The advice below relates to the headline estimates for employment, unemployment and inactivity , based on a 3 months rolling average and published by ONS each month.

 

What time period do estimates for employment unemployment and inactivity cover?

The ONS statistics provide a monthly update of a 3 month average estimate.  In August 2017 estimates were published for the 3 month period April-June 2017.  This presents an average of Labour Force Survey returns collected over the 3 month period April to June.

 

How does the data published in August compare with the estimate published in July

The LFS is designed to support reliable estimates of quarterly changes.  Although the continuous nature of the sample means that estimates of change between overlapping periods are available each month they are considered unreliable and difficult to interpret.

With reference to Figure 1, changes over time should only be made with the preceding periods of the same colour/shade. For example, estimates for the April-June quarter should be compared with those for the January-March quarter.  It is not recommended that the estimates for April-June are compared with those for either February-April or March-May.

Fig 1: Illustration of LFS reference periods

Quarters image

 

Why can’t I compare the July estimate with the August estimate?

The change between the March-May and April-June three-month periods does not provide a reliable estimate of the latest movement in the labour market.  The data published in July 2017 is for the months (March to May 2017) and the data published in the next month August is for the months (April to June 2017) (fig 1).  April and May are included in the estimate published in July and August.

If you compare the July data with the August data it is based on how different the results for June are compared with those for March only.  Only the change between two successive non-overlapping quarters represents a full transition from one representative UK sample to another.

 

How can I compare the labour market data over time

ONS recommend comparing non-overlapping periods as this provides a more robust short-term comparison and provides an estimate of quarterly change.  The estimate published in August 2017 (April to June 2017) is compared with the estimate first published in May 2017 (January to March 2017).

 

How can I compare the labour market data over time

ONS recommend comparing non-overlapping periods (i.e. April to June 2017 with January to March 2017) as this provides a more robust short-term comparison and provides an estimate of quarterly change.

The estimate published in August 2017 (April to June 2017) is compared with the estimate first published in May 2017 (Jan to March 2017).

 

Where can further details be obtained?

Further details about this are contained in part 3 of the ONS release - 3. Things you need to know about this release

 

Where is the best source on ONS web site to obtain a quick assessment of the labour market for Scotland?

The key measures for employment, unemployment and inactivity for Scotland are:

1.         Estimates for the 3 months period comparative to the regions and countries of the UK

2.         Change over the quarter (i.e. April to June 2017 compared with Jan to March 2017)

3.         Change over the year (i.e. April to June 2017 compared with April to June 2016)

 

Quick links

If you have excel Table S1 Regional Summary of Labour Market Headline Indicators provides headline estimates, change over the quarter and change over the month.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/datasets/nationallabourmarketsummarybyregions01

Table 1 in part 2 of the Regional Labour Market Statistics Publication Table 1: Summary of latest headline estimates for regions of the UK, seasonally adjusted, April to June 2017 show the headline estimates for the 3 month period and the change with the quarter before