Unemployment rates


Data source: Labour Force Survey (LFS), Office for National Statistics (ONS)

Provision: Rates checked and updated, uses LFS population weight

Update: annual

Questions you can ask of the data:

  • How many people are unemployed in a particular occupation?
  • What are the unemployment rates for an occupation over the last 5 years?

Description of the dataset and provenance

Historical estimates of unemployment rates by detailed 4 digit occupational category, also covering highest qualification held, industry, region, gender and employment status based on the official public version of the LFS produced and published by the ONS.

Details of the owner / curator

The LFS sample is insufficiently large to produce reliable estimates at the level of detail required. Estimates have been prepared on behalf of the Department for Education by the Institute for Employment Research based on the publically available version of the LFS. Unemployment rates based on the standard ILO definition are computed from the survey variable “estat”, which gives the employment status of the individual respondent concerned.

To get the unemployment rates, the number of people in a particular category reporting that they are ILO unemployed from the variable ‘estat’ are divided by the total number in the labour force (the sum of those reporting “estat” values 1 through 5. The characteristics of the groups concerned distinguish:

  • Gender
  • Industry (almost 2 digit 2007 classification categories)
  • Qualifications (highest held, 9 NQF categories)
  • Region/Country (4 UK countries and 9 English regions)
  • Occupation (SOC2010 4 digit categories)

Information for industry and occupation is based on the individual’s previous job. Information on unemployment rates by industry and occupation are based on an individual’s previous job.

Data for earlier years are also available but these use different systems for classifying occupations.

Known quality issues with data

The LFS provides robust estimates, but these are subject to sampling errors when sample sizes are small.

Quality control processes

The API suppresses sample cells with zero or small sample sizes.

Accuracy of data

Precise confidence intervals are not provided around the point estimates. Based on guidelines produced by ONS for general use of LFS data the following “rules of thumb” are suggested for users of the data:

If the numbers employed in a particular category / cell (defined by the 12 regions, gender, status, occupation, qualification and industry (75
categories)) are below 1,000 then a query about the related Unemployment rate will return “no reliable data available” and offer to go up a level of aggregation across one or more of the main dimensions (e.g. UK rather than region, some aggregation of industries rather than the 75 level, or SOC 2 digit rather than 4 digit).

If the numbers employed in a particular category / cell (defined as in 1.) are between 1,000 and 10,000 then a query on the Unemployment rate will return the estimated rate but with a flag to say that this is based on a relatively small sample size and if the user requires more robust estimates they should go up a level of aggregation across one or more of the main dimensions (as in 1).

Rounding of estimates – in order to avoid false impressions of precision the API rounds up the estimates before delivering the answer to any query. In the case of the LFS unemployment rate estimates they are rounded to the nearest percentage point.

Frequency of update

Does the data underlying the API change over time?

The LFS is conducted on a quarterly basis and the data could in principle be updated at that frequency (but this would require the processing of the data described above under ‘Details of the owner / curator’.

Will the data go out of date?

The data are as accurate as they can be at the time they are produced. As time goes by they become more out of date but they can be updated regularly and frequently.

Does the data you capture change on at least a daily basis?

No – see above.

What type of dataset series is this?

Time series information based on a cross-sectional survey of households (the LFS).

Is a feed of changes made available?

No,  see above.

How frequently do you create a new release?


What is the delay between creating a dataset and publishing it?

Once the data have been processed they can be uploaded to the LMI for All database.

Do you also provide dumps of the dataset?


Will the data be corrected if they contain errors?


Disclosure and confidentiality

The Department for Education complies with all applicable Data Protection laws in the UK.

The Unemployment rate data included in this database are non-disclosive.