Letter: Two ways to count as jobless

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The Independent Online
STEPHEN CASTLE made a number of references to the nature and provenance of official unemployment figures ('Storm over 'missing' 1m jobless', 2 January). I hope you will permit me to clarify a few points.

This department's Statistical Services Division, part of the Government Statistical Service, publishes two measures of unemployment, which complement each other. Our Labour Force Survey of households uses standard definitions recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The department began publishing these figures, which appear quarterly, 20 years ago. They are reproduced by the ILO, OECD and other international organisations; they do not originate with the ILO.

The other measure is the monthly 'claimant count', which is a by-product of the administrative system for paying out unemployment-related benefits. These figures are affected by changes in the administrative system. To overcome this we recalculate, on the current coverage, back to 1971 so that users of our figures can make proper comparisons over time. It has been necessary to do this eight times since 1979, not 29 times.

From June to August 1993 the Labour Force Survey 'ILO' unemployment figure was 2.89 million in Great Britain; the corresponding claimant count was 2.81 million. The two measures, in part, cover different categories of people. Mr Castle correctly reported that 1.08 million people were identified in the survey and excluded from the claimant count. He could have also mentioned that this number was almost balanced by the inclusion of 1 million people in the claimant count who do not satisfy the ILO criteria for unemployment.

Neither 'discouraged workers' nor participants in government schemes are included in the ILO definition of unemployment. But we regularly publish figures for both categories, part of a service which aims to provide as complete a picture of labour market developments as is practicable.

Peter Stibbard

Director of Statistics

Department of Employment

London SW1