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Labour Force Survey

Why is the survey carried out?

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is carried out for ONS Socio-Economic Division. The LFS is a continuous, household survey, which provides a wide range of data on labour market statistics and related topics such as training, qualifications, income and disability. The data from the survey are used extensively both within and outside government. The LFS has been running since spring 1992 in its present form although a LFS has been carried out in the UK since 1973. Between 1973 and 1983 a biennial survey was carried out during the spring. In 1984 the survey became annual. As well as ONS, government users include the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Trade and Industry.

The UK is required by European Union Regulation to carry out a labour force survey annually. Results from the Spring quarter of the LFS are supplied to Eurostat each year to meet this requirement.

How is the survey done?

The survey sample of addresses is taken from the Postcode Address File. In addition, a small sample of addresses of NHS and Health trust accommodation is included in the survey and anyone aged 16 or over and at boarding school or living in a hall of residence is included in their parent's household. The survey has a stratified random sample and within any continuous thirteen week period every postcode sector is sampled. This feature allows representative results to be produced for any thirteen week period and has been utilised in the ONS new First Release on Labour Market Statistics. From April 1998 the LFS figures have provided headline UK unemployment and employment figures each month for the preceding quarter.

The survey has a panel design where each sampled address is interviewed for five waves. Interviews take place at three month intervals with the fifth interview at an address taking place a year after the first. Each quarter interviews are achieved at about 59,000 addresses with about 138,000 respondents. During the year a response rate of 79% was achieved for the first wave of the survey.

All first interviews (with the exception of a very small sample located North of the Caledonian Canal) are carried out by a team of face-to-face interviewers who work exclusively on the LFS. Subsequent interviewers are carried out, where the informant is willing, by telephone from a Telephone Interviewing Unit at ONS's Titchfield office. Over 60% of all LFS interviews are conducted by telephone.

A similar quarterly survey is conducted in Northern Ireland by the Central Survey Unit of the Northern Ireland Statistics Research Agency. Social Survey Division processes results from this survey for the Department of Economic Development. The results are combined with those from the Great Britain survey to produce UK figures.

Recent developments on the survey

As well as the LFS results and a new prominent role in Labour Market Statistics, other developments during the year included the introduction of questions for meeting the new Eurostat Target Structure for European Union Labour Force Survey. These were included in the Spring quarter for the first time.

Where can the results be found?

Key results for the previous three months are published monthly in ONS's First Release on Labour Market Statistics, and available from this web site in the section called Latest Figures. More detailed results are published each quarter in the Labour Force Survey quarterly supplement of Labour Market Trends. Articles on particular topics covered by the LFS are published regularly in Labour Market Trends.

For more information about SSD or the surveys we carry out contact:
SSD Project Support Branch Tel: +44 (0)20 7533 5500 or e-mail: ssdpsb@ons.gov.uk

This page last revised: Monday, 29 October 2001

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