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.
The documentation available from the Archive to accompany LFS datasets largely consists of the latest version of each user guide volume alongside the appropriate questionnaire for the year concerned. However, volumes are updated periodically by ONS, so users are advised to check the ONS Labour Force Survey - User Guidance pages before commencing analysis.
Additional data derived from the QLFS
The Archive also holds further QLFS series: Special Licence access and Secure Data Service access datasets (see below); 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.
Special Licence QLFS data and corresponding changes to EUL datasets:
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 version 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, the extra non-EUL variables that can be found in the SL data, are: month and year of birth (variables dobm and doby); 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 (soc2kap, soc2kl, soc2kr and soc2ks); unitary authority/local authority for place of residence and place of work (ua/la); urban/rural indicator (urind). Data for households of size 10 or above, which are excluded from the standard EUL data, can also be found in the SL data. With the introduction of SL data, some variables were correspondingly removed from the EUL datasets for 2003 onwards, including dobm, doby, nuts2, soc2kap, soc2kl, soc2kr and soc2ks. Users should note that these variables may still be referenced in the user guides without reference to restricted availability.
Secure Access QLFS data
More comprehensive versions of the QLFS datasets are also available via the UK Data Service Secure Access system. These datasets include further additional, detailed variables not included in either the EUL or SL versions. They are subject to further access restrictions (see the Secure Access webpages for details).
Changes to QLFS identifier variables
Changes designed to improve confidentiality have been made to the identifier variables supplied with the main QLFS datasets from January-March 2011 onwards. Pseudonymised variables Casenop, Hserialp and Quotap are now included.
|The Special Licence (SL) version of the QLFS January - March, 2012 is held under SN 7038.
For the second edition (March 2013) a new version of the data file was deposited, with three new qualifications variables included: FDSINCOM, HDSINCOM and SINCOMN. Also, the file no longer contains data for non-responders (variable ioutcome3); 102,532 cases are now included in the file instead of the previous 107,223 cases.
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.