This section is designed to answer some of the common questions users have when interpreting youth unemployment statistics.
If you require more detailed information on any of these issues or have any additional queries then please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How is youth unemployment measured? (back to top)
Unemployment estimates for 16-24 year olds are published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS).
The Labour Force Survey is the largest continuous household survey in the United Kingdom. In operation continuously since spring 1992, it is a survey of private households with the primary purpose of providing information on the UK labour market. The achieved sample for the LFS is typically 50,000 households per quarter, which usually relates to around 110,000 people. The LFS is designed to enable estimates of levels, such as the number of people in employment, which are representative of the national population
The LFS contains a series of questions which determine whether a respondent fits the internationally accepted definition of ‘unemployment’ – ILO unemployment.
The ILO definition covers people who are:
- without a job, have actively sought work in the last 4 weeks and are available to start work in the next 2 weeks; or
- out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next 2 weeks.
People who are aged 16-24 and meet the above definition are included in the youth unemployment figures.
Please click here for more information on the labour market status of individuals.
How is the youth unemployment rate calculated? (back to top)
The youth unemployment rate captures the percentage of the active labour force (aged 16-24) that cannot find work. The denominator is the economically active population (aged 16-24) i.e. the number of 16-24 year olds who are either employed or unemployed.
An example using estimates for 16-24 year olds in Scotland from the LFS (Nov 2011 - Jan 2012) is provided below (levels are rounded but percentages are calculated using unrounded data):
Example of the calculation of the youth unemployment rate (16-24 year olds) for Scotland:
Unemployed = 102,000
Employed = 314,000
Economically Inactive = 186,000
Total = 603,000
Economically Active = Unemployed + Employed = 102,000 + 314,000 = 417,000
(Economically Active = Total - Economic Inactive = 603,000 - 186,000 = 417,000)
Unemployment rate = percentage of the active labour force that cannot find work
= unemployed / economically active
= 102,000 / 417,000
Source: Labour Force Survey (Nov 2011 - Jan 2012), ONS
Are full-time students included in the headline youth unemployment figures? (back to top)
Yes. Anyone who meets the internationally agreed definition on unemployment is deemed to be unemployed – crucially this is regardless of whether or not they are enrolled in full-time education. As a result, a full-time student looking for part-time work would be counted as unemployed.
In Oct-Dec 2011 for example, it is estimated that approximately 35% (36,000) of unemployed 16-24 year olds in Scotland were also in full-time education.
Is it possible to exclude full-time students from the youth unemployment rate calculation? (back to top)
ONS currently provide supplementary youth unemployment figures which exclude full-time students in their monthly labour market briefing (UK level only).
The supplementary rate is calculated in the same way as the headline rate but with full-time students excluded from the numerator and denominator.
The calculation using seasonally adjusted UK estimates from the LFS (Nov 2011 - Jan 2012) is explained below (levels are rounded but percentages are calculated using unrounded data):
Example of the calculation of the supplementary youth unemployment rate (16-24 year olds not in full-time education) for the UK:
Unemployed = 1,042,000
Economically Active = 4,642,000
Unemployed, excl. full-time students = 731,000
Economically Active, excl. full-time students = 3,511,000
Youth unemployment rate
= Unemployed / Economically Active
= 1,042,000 / 4,642,000
Supplementary youth unemployment rate, excluding full-time students
= Unemployed, excl. full-time students / Economically Active, excl. full-time students
= 731,000 / 4,642,000
Source: Labour Force Survey (Nov 2011 - Jan 2012), ONS
Note that when considering the supplementary unemployment measure above, the equivalent employment measure should also be considered. This data is available for the UK from table A06 from the ONS website: monthly labour market briefing.
Is there a youth unemployment rate for my Local Authority/Parliamentary Constituency? (back to top)
At local authority/parliamentary constituency level and below the number of 16-24 year olds sampled in the Labour Force Survey is relatively low. Therefore it is not possible to calculate representative or reliable estimates of youth unemployment at this level. An alternative indicator is the claimant count – a count of the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance.
Note that the claimant count and unemployment do not measure the same thing. Unemployment is a wider measure - it includes those who meet the internationally agreed definition of unemployment even if they are ineligible for, or do not claim Jobseekers Allowance.
Further information on the claimant count, including where to find data, can be found here.
Why is the youth (16-24) claimant count rate so much lower than the youth unemployment rate? (back to top)
The claimant count and unemployment do not measure the same thing. Unemployment is a wider measure. Full-time students are included in unemployment estimates but are not be eligible for Jobseekers Allowance (often referred to as the claimant count). This also applies to many 16 and 17 year olds. Therefore the youth unemployment rate will have a higher denominator.
Furthermore, the 16-24 claimant count rate expresses the number of claimants as a percentage of the resident population aged 16-24 i.e. all 16-24 year olds. While the youth unemployment rate express the number of unemployed 16-24 year olds as a percentage of economically active 16-24 year olds only. Therefore the youth unemployment rate will have a lower numerator.
The combination of these factors explains most of the discrepancy between the youth unemployment rate and the youth claimant count rate.
In Scotland the youth unemployment rate for Nov-Jan 2012 was 24.7%.
The comparable claimant count rate (December 2011) was 6.6%.
(December 2011 is the middle month of the quarter Nov-Jan 2012 and is therefore the most suitable single period for comparison.)
Why are comparisons made over the year and not over the quarter or month? (back to top)
LFS estimates for 16-24 year olds in Scotland are not seasonally adjusted. Therefore some of the variation over the month or quarter can be explained by seasonal factors. For example, a seasonal increase in youth unemployment tends to be occur over the summer months as school leavers look for work and students look for summer jobs. This also applies to claimant count figures for 16-24 year olds - the number of young people on Jobseekers Allowance.
It is recommended to compare youth unemployment estimates in Scotland over the year to minimise the impact of seasonal components. This allows a greater focus on the underlying trend.
General information on the labour market status of individuals (back to top)
Employment levels include:
- those who were temporarily away from work (e.g. ill, on maternity leave, on holiday or temporarily laid off);
- those on government sponsored training schemes; and
- those working unpaid for their family business.
Individuals are classified into the above four groups according to their own assessment.
Headline employment levels cover all workers aged 16 and over.
Employment rates are the number of people in employment expressed as a percentage of the relevant population. These rates are based on internationally agreed definitions published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
| Unemployment |
Unemployment levels and rates from the Labour Force Survey and the Annual Population Survey (APS) are measured following the internationally agreed definition recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – an agency of the United Nations. The ILO definition of unemployment covers people who are:
- without a job, want a job, have actively sought work in the last four weeks and are available to start work in the next two weeks; or
- out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next two weeks.
Unemployment levels cover all workers aged 16 and over.
Unemployment rates are the number of unemployed people expressed as a percentage of the relevant economically active population, normally those aged 16 and over.
| Inactivity |
Economically inactive people are not in employment, but do not satisfy the internationally agreed definition of unemployment. This group covers people without a job who:
- want a job but have not been seeking work in the last four weeks; or
- want a job and are seeking work but not available to start work in the next two weeks; or
- do not want a job.
Headline Inactivity levels and rates cover all workers aged 16-64 for both men and women. This excludes many people who would be inactive due to retirement.