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Understanding statistics on employment, unemployment and earnings

Published Tuesday, December 17, 2019

This note explains the meaning of different concepts within labour market statistics and identifies the key measures and sources to use.

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A lot of information is available on the state of the UK labour market – numbers and rates of people employed and unemployed, the types of employment undertaken, average earnings, and so on. This note explains the meaning of different concepts and identifies the key measures and sources to use. It also addresses some common misunderstandings and areas where the statistics need to be interpreted with particular care.

The note has been updated in December 2019 to provide information on two changes that the House of Commons Library has made to how it reports information on the number of people claiming unemployment benefits:

  • The alternative claimant count will be used as the Library’s principle indicator of local trends in unemployment – see section 4.4 for more information.
  • The denominator used to produce the claimant rate has been changed to the number of people aged 16-64, rather than the number of economically active people aged 16-64. This means that the Library’s claimant rate is consistent with the rate used by the Office for National Statistics – see section 4.3 for more information.

Commons Briefing papers SN07119

Author: Andy Powell

Topics: Employment, Pay, Statistics policy, Unemployment

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