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Economically inactive people are not in work and do not meet the internationally agreed definition of unemployment. They are people without a job who have not actively sought work in the last four weeks and/or are not available to start work in the next two weeks.

Publications

Atlas of Deprivation: England
Department: Office for National Statistics
The Indices of Multiple Deprivation for England combine a number of areas, chosen to cover a range of economic, social and housing issues into a single deprivation score for each Lower Layer Super Output Area in England. The Atlas of Deprivation allows a map visualisation of the overall LSOA deprivation score (rank) and the score (rank) for each of the seven domains by local authority.
Economic Inactivity in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
Statistics on Economic Inactivity includes for Wales and the UK. Annual data at Welsh local authority level.
Households that have never worked
Department: Office for National Statistics
Analysis of households containing no-one who has ever worked
Labour Force Survey Local Area Database (Northern Ireland)
Department: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
Labour Market Statistics for Northern Ireland (employment, unemployment).
Labour Force Survey Local Area Database (Northern Ireland)
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland)
Labour Market Statistics for Northern Ireland (employment, unemployment).
Labour Market Statistics
Department: Office for National Statistics
Employment, unemployment, economic inactivity, claimant count, average earnings, labour productivity, vacancies and labour disputes statistics.
Labour Market Statistics Quarterly Supplement
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland)
Labour Market Statistics for Northern Ireland (employment, unemployment).
Labour Market Statistics Quarterly Supplement
Department: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
Labour Market Statistics for Northern Ireland (employment, unemployment).
Labour Market Statistics for Households in Wales
Department: Welsh Government
This dataset enables household analyses to be carried out at a Local Authority level, including details of people in workless households, children in workless households, lone parents and housing tenure.
Labour market status for young people by ethnicity
Department: Office for National Statistics
Estimates of labour market status (employment, unemployment and inactivity) for all people, men and women aged 16 to 24 by ethnicity for Quarter 4 each year from 2006 to 2011.
Local Area Labour Market
Department: Office for National Statistics
Presents a number of different indicators to give an overall picture of the labour market of local areas. Includes statistics relating to the employment, unemployment and benefit dependency of the resident population of the area; statistics relating to jobs and vacancies at workplaces in the area; and earnings statistics.
Moving between Unemployment and Employment
Department: Office for National Statistics
This report examines how people move around the labour market between unemployment, employment and inactivity.
NEET Statistics - Quarterly brief
Department: Education
This brief sets out the latest statistics available on NEET in England from the DfE 16 - 18 Participation SFR, the Labour Force Survey, and regional NEET figures.
Northern Ireland Labour Market Report
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland)
Labour Market Statistics for Northern Ireland (employment, unemployment, earnings).
Northern Ireland Labour Market Report
Department: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
Labour Market Statistics for Northern Ireland (employment, unemployment, earnings).
Regional labour market statistics
Department: Office for National Statistics
Official statistics on employment, unemployment, inactivity, jobs and the Claimant Count for regions, local authorities and parliamentary constituencies.
Revisions to Labour Force Survey estimates due to re-weighting to the Census 2011 population
Department: Office for National Statistics
Revisions to Labour Force Survey estimates due to re-weighting to the Census 2011 population
The Productivity Conundrum
Department: Office for National Statistics
Additional economic analysis focusing on the interaction of GDP and the Labour Market.
Women in Northern Ireland
Department: Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency
Statistics on women in Northern Ireland, labour market, childcare provision, earnings.
Women in Northern Ireland
Department: Enterprise, Trade and Investment (Northern Ireland)
Statistics on women in Northern Ireland, labour market, childcare provision, earnings.
Workless households for regions across the UK
Department: Office for National Statistics
Information about households and the adults and children living in them, by their economic activity status. Regional differences across the UK will be provided.
Young People not in Education, Employment or Training (NEETs)
Department: Office for National Statistics
This release provides estimates of young people (aged from 16 to 24) who are NEET (not in education, employment or training) broken down by age, sex and by labour market status (unemployed and economically inactive).
Young people not in employment, education or training in the UK
Department: Office for National Statistics
This release contains information on young people (those aged 16-24) not in employment, education or training (NEET's) within the UK.

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Overview

The number of economically inactive people in the UK is measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and consists of people aged 16 and over without a job who have not sought work in the last four weeks and/or are not available to start work in the next two weeks. The main economically inactive groups are students, people looking after family and home, long term sick and disabled, temporarily sick and disabled, retired people and discouraged workers.

The characteristics of people who are economically inactive vary depending on their reason for inactivity. For example, students tend to be young and at the start of their working lives. Those looking after the family and home tend to be female and of child rearing age and retirees tend to be close to retirement age.

Inactivity levels and rates are published each month in the Labour Market Statistical Bulletin. Estimates are available by sex, by age and by reason for inactivity. Inactivity levels measure the total number of people estimated to be economically inactive while inactivity rates allow changes in the labour market to be interpreted in a wider context by allowing for changes in the population.

The headline measure of inactivity for the UK is the inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64

Estimates of inactivity are also available for Government Office Regions (GORs) and at local area level. Regional estimates of total inactivity are measured by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) while more disaggregated regional inactivity estimates and local area estimates are measured by the Annual Population Survey (APS).

Estimates of inactivity levels and rates for the UK are available from 1971. Most other inactivity estimates are available from 1993.

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Technical Data

Labour Force Survey

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is the largest regular household survey in the UK. The survey covers people resident in private households, National Health Service (NHS) accommodation and student halls of residence. It does not cover any other communal establishments. LFS interviews are conducted continuously throughout the year.

In any three-month period, a nationally representative sample of approximately 120,000 people aged 16 and over in around 50,000 households is interviewed. Each household is interviewed five times, at three monthly intervals.

The initial interview is conducted face-to-face by an interviewer visiting the address, except for residences north of the Caledonian Canal in Scotland (where face-to-face-interviews would be prohibitively expensive). The other interviews are conducted by telephone wherever possible. The survey asks a series of questions about respondents’ personal circumstances and their labour market activity.

The survey is conducted in five ‘waves’áso that in any one quarter, one wave will be receiving their first interview, one wave their second, and so on, with one wave receiving their fifth and final interview. Therefore, there is an 80 per cent overlap in the samples for each successive quarter.

Seasonal adjustment

Seasonal movements can occur in labour market data for a number of reasons including holidays and recruitment patterns. For example, a large number of people leave full-time education and enter the labour market in the summer.

To make it easier to identify the underlying movements in the labour market, changes due solely to seasonal influences are removed from many series. This process is known as seasonal adjustment. LFS estimates are seasonally adjusted using the X-12 ARIMA package developed by Statistics Canada. The seasonal adjustment of LFS data is usually reviewed annually.

Sampling Variability

Survey estimates are prone to sampling variability. The easiest way to explain this is by example. In the April to June 2008 period, there were estimated to be 7,876,000 economically inactive people of working age in the UK, according to the LFS (seasonally adjusted). These figures were published in August 2008.

If we drew another sample for the same period we could get a different result, which could be higher or lower. In theory, we could draw many samples, and each would give a different result. The spread of these results leads to sampling variability.

Once we know the sampling variability we can calculate a range of values about the sample estimate that represents the expected variation with a given level of assurance. This is called a confidence interval. For a 95 per cent confidence interval we expect that, in 95 per cent of the samples, the confidence interval will contain the true value of inactivity that would have been obtained by surveying the entire population. For example, for April to June 2008, we can be 95 per cent confident that the true level of inactivity was within 123,000 of the estimate of 7,876,000 (that is, within the range 7,753,000 to 7,999,000).

Sampling variability also affects changes over time. Changes in inactivity between three-month periods are rarely greater than the level that is explainable by sampling variability. It is estimated that the number of inactive people of working age in the UK fell by 3,000 between January to March 2008 and April to June 2008 (seasonally adjusted). We can be 95 per cent confident that the true change lies in the range between a decrease of 90,000 and an increase of 84,000. It is more likely that inactivity decreased, rather than increased.

In general, the larger the number of people in the sample, the smaller the variation between estimates. Estimates based on the LFS for the whole of the UK are therefore more accurate than those for smaller geographical areas. Indications of sampling variability for national and regional LFS data are given in the Labour Market Statistical Bulletin.

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Glossary

  • Annual Population Survey (APS)

    The Annual Population Survey is similar to the Labour Force Survey (LFS). It started in January 2004 and is compiled by taking data from the four calendar quarters of the LFS and combining them with additional samples of interviews.

  • Discouraged worker

    A sub group of the economically inactive population who said their main reason for not seeking work was because they believed there were no jobs available.

  • Inactivity

    Economically inactive people are those without a job who have not actively sought work in the last four weeks, and/or are not available to start work in the next two weeks.á

  • Inactivity rate

    The headline inactivity rate is calculated by dividing the inactivity level for those aged 16-64 dividedáby the population for that age group.

  • Labour Force Survey (LFS)

    The main source for information on the labour market in the UK. It is a random household survey of approximately 50,000 households every three months conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). As well as private households, the survey includes people living in student halls of residence and National Health Service (NHS) accommodation.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Labour Market Statistics Team

Email: labour.market@ons.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 1633 455839

Labour Market Statistics Team Office for National Statistics Government Buildings Cardiff Road Newport Road NP10 8XG

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