Employment and unemployment

The level of employment is the number of people in work, while the rate of employment is the proportion of people in work relative to the size of the workforce. The workforce consists of those people who are at work or those of working age who are willing and be to work.

The unemployed are people who are willing and available to work, by are not currently employed. The level of unemployment is the number out of work, and the rate of unemployment gives this figure as a proportion of the workforce.

There are two main ways of measuring unemployment. The International Labour Organisation uses the Labour Force Survey, which is now the official measure used in the UK. This involves a face-to-face interview followed by a quarterly telephone survey of 60,000 households, asking several questions including wether anyone in the household has been out of work for 4 work and is ready to start in the next 2 weeks. The questions relate to anyone over the age if 16, and it is therefore a more conclusive survey than the claimant count. However, the survey data are 6 weeks out of date by the time they are published – which is once per month.

The claimant count is a measure of unemployment which records the number of people who are claiming jobseeker’s allowance. There is some stigma attached to claiming benefits, so not everyone who is eligible to claim does so, and many are not eligible because the criteria for eligibility is very tight. For example, if you have resigned from your previous job within in the last 6 months or have refused three jobs which you have been offered, then you cannot claim.

In order to gain the full benefit of £60 a week, you need to have made a certain number of National Insurance Contributions by working in the past. You also have to prove, in an interview at the job centre every 2 weeks, that you are looking for work. Under the rules of the New Deal, you might be denied benefits unless you actively involve yourself in training or work placements. After 6 months of training JSA you will be means tested, and claims are substantially reduced if you have a partner who earns or if you have savings above £8000; payments are stopped altogether if you have more than £160000. You must be over 18 and below retirement age. If you are unable to work or are working in a voluntary capacity for 16 hours a week, you cannot claim.

The claimant count therefore does not present a very full picture of unemployment. It is quick and cheap to obtain these data, however, and it is a useful measure of hardship – after all, you are not very likely to claim JSA if you don’t need money between jobs.

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