Employment and unemployment

Figures for the labour market are compiled using the Labour Force Survey, commissioned by the Office for National Statistics. They’re published every month in one release. The detail provided is considerable: they show rates and levels of employment and unemployment and ‘economic inactivity’ (not in work and not actively seeking work). Breakdowns are available by age, sex, duration of unemployment, region, ethnicity, nationality and country of birth, disability, industry, occupation, full-, part-time and temporary employment, public and private sector.

Detailed figures broken down by local authority and parliamentary constituency are provided by the NOMIS labour market database.

Historical figures are available for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity going back to 1971.

Job vacancies

The number of job vacancies is also measured in labour market statistics from the ONS. More detailed figures are provided by the government’s universal jobmatch database and historical figures by the NOMIS database. However these two aren’t necessarily comparable to each other so should be used carefully.

Out-of-work benefits claimants

People who claim Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit are measured by the Office for National Statistics in their ‘claimant count’ measure. This is available from the same place that employment figures are published.

Data on the number of people who claim other out-of-work benefits, such as Income Support or Employment and Support Allowance, is published by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Working and workless households

Employment and unemployment figures from the Office for National Statistics are also applied to whole households. Statistics on how many households are in and out of work – or a combination – are published annually. These can show worklessness by type of tenure, type of family, age of occupants and region, as well as estimates of how many households have never worked.

There aren’t any regularly published figures for how many households have several generations who have never worked. One of the few sources available is a study carried out by the Centre for Market and Public Organisation at Bristol University. It uses surveys that track groups of people through their lives and deduces facts about the population from these samples.


Productivity figures measure the output of workers either per worker, per job or per hour worked, as well as what workers cost. They can show which industries and regions add more value to the economy than others.

The Office for National Statistics publishes labour productivity figures every three months.

Trade unions, tribunals and strikes

A list of all existing and former trade unions in the UK is published by the Certification Officer.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy holds information on the number of people who are members of trade unions today and over time.

The Office for National Statistics measures how many working days are lost due to strike action alongside its employment figures.