The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a unique source of information using international definitions of employment and unemployment and economic inactivity, together with a wide range of related topics such as occupation, training, hours of work and personal characteristics of household members aged 16 years and over. It is used to inform social, economic and employment policy. The LFS was first conducted biennially from 1973-1983. Between 1984 and 1991 the survey was carried out annually and consisted of a quarterly survey conducted throughout the year and a 'boost' survey in the spring quarter (data were then collected seasonally). From 1992 quarterly data were made available, with a quarterly sample size approximately equivalent to that of the previous annual data. The survey then became known as the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS). From December 1994, data gathering for Northern Ireland moved to a full quarterly cycle to match the rest of the country, so the QLFS then covered the whole of the UK (though some additional annual Northern Ireland LFS datasets are also held at the UK Data Archive). Further information on the background to the QLFS may be found in the documentation.
Special Licence access and Secure Data Service access QLFS data:
From the January-March 2003 quarter, a Special Licence (SL) version of the QLFS data is also available in addition to the version made available under the standard End User Licence (EUL). The SL version contains extra variables, and therefore is subject to more restrictive access conditions. Prospective users of the SL edition will need to complete an extra application form and demonstrate to the data owners exactly why they need access to the extra variables, in order to get permission to use that version (see 'Access' section below). Therefore, most users should order the standard version of the data. In order to help users choose the correct dataset, 'Special Licence Access' has been added to the dataset titles for the SL versions of the data. Typically, variables that can be found in the SL data, and that are not available in the standard EUL version, are: month and year of birth; Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics Level 2 (NUTS2) (county-level); 4-digit Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for occupation in apprenticeship, last job, second job and job made redundant from; unitary authority/local authority for place of residence and place of work; urban/rural indicator. Data for households of size 10 or above, which are excluded from the standard EUL data, can also be found in the SL data. Secure Data Service (SDS) access QLFS datasets include further additional, detailed variables not included in the EUL or SL versions and are subject to further access restrictions – see the SDS website.
The documentation available from the Archive to accompany LFS datasets largely consists of the latest version of each volume alongside the appropriate questionnaire for the year concerned. However, LFS volumes are updated periodically by ONS, so users are advised to check the ONS LFS User Guide pages before commencing analysis.
SPSS syntax code to recode pre-2009 geographic variables
The Archive holds SPSS syntax code that can be used with pre-2009 LFS and APS Special Licence Access datasets to recode Local Authority/Unitary Authority (UA/LA) geographic variables into the new UA/LA classification areas used after the 2009 local government reorganisation, when nine new UAs were created. This syntax is referenced in Volume 3 (current Variable Details) of the LFS User Guide (page 42 in the 2013 edition, page 47 in the 2011 edition). The code is held under SN 7384, Quarterly Labour Force Survey and Annual Population Survey: Local Authority/Unitary Authority Pre-2009 Syntax. While the data files are subject to Special Licence Access, the syntax file is subject to standard End User Licence (EUL) access conditions, as it does not contain any data, only SPSS command syntax code.
Additional data derived from the QLFS
The Archive also holds further QLFS series: EUL quarterly datasets; household datasets (produced twice a year); two-quarter and five-quarter longitudinal datasets; quarterly, annual and ad hoc module datasets compiled for Eurostat; and some additional annual Northern Ireland datasets.
LFS move from seasonal to calendar quarters
In accordance with European Union regulations, the QLFS moved from seasonal (spring, summer, autumn, winter) quarters to calendar quarters (January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December) in 2006. Subsequently, calendar versions of all datasets in the main QLFS series were deposited and the previous seasonal datasets were removed from the Archive's catalogue at the request of ONS. However, some seasonal datasets may still exist for other LFS series, and ONS advise that, because of the method of construction and the weighting factors used in the datasets, comparison cannot be made between datasets of a calendar and seasonal nature. Time series and longitudinal analysis should only be conducted on datasets of the same type.
The QLFS questionnaire comprises a 'core' of questions which are included in every survey, together with some 'non-core' questions which vary from quarter to quarter.
The questionnaire can be split into two main parts. The first part contains questions on the respondent's household, family structure, basic housing information and demographic details of household members. The second part contains questions covering economic activity, education and health, and also may include a few questions asked on behalf of other government departments (for example the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office). Until 1997, the questions on health covered mainly problems which affected the respondent's work. From that quarter onwards, the questions cover all health problems. Detailed questions on income have also been included in each quarter since 1993. The basic questionnaire is revised each year, and a new version published, along with a transitional version that details changes from the previous year's questionnaire.