|The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a unique source of articulated 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. The first LFS was conducted in 1973, under the terms of a regulation derived from the Treaty of Rome, and the provision of information for the Statistical Office of the European Communities (SOEC), now known as Eurostat, continues to be one of the reasons for carrying out the survey. Eurostat co-ordinates information from labour force surveys in the European Union (EU) member states in order to assist the EU in such matters as the allocation of the Social Fund. The LFS was carried out biennially from 1973 to 1983, and was increasingly used during this time by British government departments to obtain information that would assist in the framing of social and economic policy. By 1983, the LFS was being used by the Employment Department to obtain information which was not available from other sources or was only available for Census years. Between 1984 and 1991 the survey was carried out annually and consisted of two elements:
During 1991, the LFS was further developed, so that from 1992 quarterly data were made available, with a quarterly sample size approximately equivalent to that of the previous annual data, that is 60,000 responding households every quarter. Thus, the survey became known as the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS). Between March 1992 and November 1994, interviewing in Northern Ireland was only conducted in the spring, with no quarterly element. However, from December 1994, data gathering for Northern Ireland moved to the full quarterly cycle to match the rest of the country. From that date, the QLFS covered the whole of the United Kingdom, though some additional annual Northern Ireland LFS datasets are also held at the UK Data Archive.
- a quarterly survey conducted in Great Britain throughout the year, in which each sampled address was called on five times at quarterly intervals, and which yields about 15,000 responding households in every quarter
- a 'boost' survey in the spring quarter (then March-May, as data were collected seasonally), which produced interviews at over 44,000 households in Great Britain and over 4,000 households in Northern Ireland
Secure Access QLFS data
Secure Access datasets for the QLFS are available from the April-June 1992 quarter, and include additional, detailed variables not included in either the standard 'End User Licence' (EUL) versions (see under GN 33246) or the Special Licence (SL) access versions (see under GN 33378). Extra variables that typically can be found in the Secure Access versions but not in the EUL or SL versions relate to:
Prospective users of a Secure Access version of the QLFS will need to fulfil additional requirements, commencing with the completion of an extra application form to demonstrate to the data owners exactly why they need access to the extra, more detailed variables, in order to obtain permission to use that version. Secure Access users must also complete face-to-face training and agree to Secure Access' User Agreement and Breaches Penalties Policy (see 'Access' section below). Therefore, users are encouraged to download and inspect the EUL version of the data prior to ordering the Secure Access (or SL) version.
- geography, including:
- anonymised postcodes - currently available for the final quarter of 2009 only (and for Great Britain only), although these may be available for a number of additional recent quarters in the future
- Census Area Statistical and electoral wards
- Parliamentary Constituency Areas
- Census Output Areas
- Nomenclature of Units for Territorial Statistics (NUTS) level 3 areas
- Lower and Middle Layer Super Output Areas
- Learning Partnership areas (England)
- Travel to Work Areas
- Scottish Data Zones
- education and training: including type of 'other qualifications', more detail regarding the number of O'levels/GCSE passes, type of qualification gained in last 12 months, class of first degree, type of degree held, UK country of highest degree, type of current educational institution, level of Welsh baccalaureate, activities to improve knowledge or skills in last 12 months, attendance at adult learning taught courses, attendance at leisure or educational classes, self-teaching, payment of job-related training fees
- household and family characteristics: including number of family units (and extended family units) with dependent children only, and with non-dependent children only, total number of family units with more than one person, total number of eligible people, type of household, type of family unit, number of bedrooms
- employment: including industry code of main job, whether working full-time or part-time, reason job is temporary, payment of own National Insurance and tax, when started working at previous job, whether paid or self-employed in previous job, contracts with employment agency
- unemployment and job hunting: including main reason for not being employed prior to current job, reasons for leaving job (provision of care or other personal/family reasons), use of internet for job hunting, if and when will work in the future
- temporary leave from work: including proportion of salary received and duration of leave
- accidents at work and work-related health problems
- nationality, national identity and country of birth: including whether lived continuously in UK, month of most recent arrival to UK, frequency of Welsh speaking
- occurence of learning difficulty or disability
- benefits, including additional variables on type of benefits claimed and tax credit payments
In 2009, the ONS undertook a reweighting project, whereby LFS data were reweighted using population estimates for 2009 rather than for 2007-2008 population figures used for the previous LFS reweighting project conducted in 2007. A further reweighting project was undertaken in early 2011, whereby LFS data were reweighted using population estimates for 2010. Secure Access versions of the QLFS data files include the 2007 weighting variables up to July-September 2009 (first edition). 2009 weighting variables are included between July-September 2006 and January-March 2010 (first edition). 2010 weighting variables are included between July-September 2001 and January-March 2010 (second edition).
Geographical references: postcodes
The postcodes available for limited data files (see above) in the Secure Access version of the data are pseudo-anonymised postcodes. The real postcodes are not available due to the potential risk of identification of the observations. However, these replacement postcodes retain the inherent nested characteristics of real postcodes, and will allow researchers to aggregate observations to other geographic units, e.g. wards, super output areas, etc. In the dataset, the variable of the replacement postcode is 'new_PC'. Users who specifically require postcodes to undertake their analyses are advised to read the Office for National Statistics document Geographical references in the Virtual Microdata Laboratory and Secure Data Service before applying for access to the data.
Special Licence Access QLFS data
SL access versions of the QLFS data are available from the January-March 2003 quarter. The SL versions contain extra variables not found in the standard EUL versions, and therefore are subject to more restrictive access conditions than those made available under the EUL (but less stringent than Secure Access versions). 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.
Additional QLFS data
Additional datasets are also produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using LFS data, and many of these are also deposited at the UK Data Archive. Full details of all LFS data held by the Archive, comprising the main quarterly datasets (including SL and standard EUL versions), Household, Two-Quarter and Five-Quarter Longitudinal, Eurostat, Local Area, annual LFS and annual Northern Ireland LFS data, are available from the Labour Force Survey datasets page.
LFS move from seasonal to calendar quarters
In accordance with EU regulations, the LFS moved from seasonal (spring, summer, autumn, winter) quarters to calendar quarters (January-March, April-June, July-September, October-December) in 2006. After the 2007 LFS reweighting project, calendar versions of all datasets in the main QLFS series were deposited at the Archive and the previous seasonal datasets were removed from the Archive 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 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 Guidance pages before commencing analysis
Note on second edition
For the second edition (August 2011) data have been reweighted using the latest population estimates (2010), and the files contain new weighting variables, pwt10 and piwt10, accordingly.
Note on third edition
The third edition (May 2013) includes data from quarters April - June 2010 until January - March 2011.