Jobseeker’s Allowance: how long people claim for


Last updated 14 May 2019 - see all updates

There is a new version of this page. View the latest version.

1. Main facts and figures

  • in July 2018, White British people were more likely than any other ethnic group to have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for the longest time period (104 weeks or more)
  • people from the Other White group were more likely than any other ethnicity to have been claiming JSA for the shortest time period studied (13 weeks or less)
  • due to the roll out of Universal Credit, it is not possible to compare the most recent data with previous years’ data or across regions
Things you need to know

Figures for Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) claims are based on Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) administrative data.

A new programme of benefits called Universal Credit is currently being rolled out. Claims for Universal Credit were not included in the data, so not all the people who were actively seeking work and claiming unemployment benefits during this period are accounted for.

As Universal Credit is rolled out, new claimants will need to apply for that rather than Job Seekers Allowance (JSA). Over time, we expect this change will lead to more JSA claims being open for longer, as the figures increasingly reflect existing claimants rather than fresh claims.

These figures are also affected by economic factors which vary by region. For example, large cities often have more jobs available, and these are also the areas with larger populations of people from ethnic minorities. This can result in a fall in the percentage of ethnic minority people claiming JSA or claiming JSA for a shorter period of time.

National and regional figures should not be interpreted as showing if certain groups have ‘better’ outcomes than others, and the most recent data cannot be compared to previous years.

What the data measures

This data measures how long current claimants have been claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for, measured at a fixed point in time (for example, July 2018). The data covers JSA claimants in England, Wales and Scotland, and is broken down by ethnicity.

This is not the same as measuring how long JSA claims ultimately last. For example, those people that have currently been claiming JSA for 13 weeks or less at a certain point in time may continue to claim for longer than 13 weeks.

A person who is working age (aged 16 to 64 years) can usually claim JSA if they:

  • are available for work
  • are actively seeking work
  • work on average less than 16 hours per week
  • are not in full-time education
  • meet certain conditions if they are aged 16 to 17 years
  • not in an area where they would claim Universal Credit

For the purposes of this data, the length of claims for JSA are broken down into 6 categories:

  • 13 weeks or less
  • over 13 and up to 26 weeks
  • over 26 and up to 52 weeks
  • over 52 and up to 78 weeks
  • over 78 and up to 104 weeks
  • over 104 weeks
The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, small counts in some areas and differences in the reporting of ethnicity mean that data may be unreliable when broken down into specific ethnic categories.

Therefore, the data is broken down into 6 broad ethnic groups, where ‘White Other’ refers to White ethnic minorities.

  • White British
  • White Other
  • Black/Black British
  • Asian/Asian British
  • Mixed/Multiple
  • Other

‘Unknown’ is used where ethnicity was not recorded.

2. By ethnicity

How long people claim Jobseeker's Allowance for, by ethnicity
Ethnicity 13 weeks or less over 104 weeks over 13 and up to 26 weeks over 26 and up to 52 weeks over 52 and up to 78 weeks over 78 and up to 104 weeks
% % % % % %
All 26.9 22.2 17.4 17.6 9.6 6.3
Asian 26.1 16.9 18.7 20.4 10.9 7.0
Black 23.0 22.5 16.9 19.7 10.7 7.2
Mixed 27.5 17.3 18.7 19.4 10.4 6.7
White British 27.4 23.3 17.2 16.8 9.2 6.1
White other 34.0 14.9 19.6 18.2 8.0 5.3
Other 22.9 14.5 17.4 23.5 13.2 8.4
Unknown 24.2 30.1 14.6 16.2 8.8 6.0

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity’ (CSV)

Summary of Jobseeker’s Allowance: how long people claim for By ethnicity Summary

This data shows that:

  • as at July 2018, just over a quarter (26.9%) of all claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) had lasted for 13 weeks or less, while 22.2% of claims had lasted for 104 weeks or more
  • a greater percentage of Other White claimants (34.0%) had been claiming JSA for 13 weeks or less compared with other ethnicities
  • claimants from the White British and Black ethnic groups had the highest percentages claiming for 104 weeks or more (23.3% and 22.5% respectively)

3. By ethnicity and area

Percentage of claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance lasting for more than 104 weeks , by ethnicity and area
Region All Asian Black Mixed White British White other Other Unknown
% % % % % % % %
All 22.2 16.9 22.5 17.3 23.3 14.9 14.5 30.1
East 19.3 14.0 18.0 13.3 20.0 12.3 14.3 26.8
East Midlands 19.1 10.5 16.4 13.9 20.9 10.0 9.2 23.2
London 21.5 15.9 23.2 17.7 23.4 18.0 15.8 31.6
North East 25.7 17.9 14.9 15.0 26.3 18.8 14.9 36.1
North West 21.1 15.6 14.2 13.5 23.0 14.0 10.6 25.5
Scotland 21.9 10.5 9.7 7.7 23.1 10.2 12.1 31.9
South East 16.9 11.4 14.4 11.8 17.8 11.1 9.9 19.8
South West 20.5 11.9 20.4 14.8 21.1 12.3 14.9 24.0
Wales 24.7 14.3 18.8 17.5 25.3 15.7 15.6 30.9
West Midlands 29.8 25.8 36.4 28.9 29.6 20.9 21.9 40.2
Yorkshire and The Humber 21.5 14.9 15.7 14.2 23.6 11.1 12.6 26.3

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and area’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and area’ (CSV)

Summary of Jobseeker’s Allowance: how long people claim for By ethnicity and area Summary

This data shows that:

  • out of all regions, the West Midlands had the highest percentage of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants who had been claiming for more than 104 weeks (29.8%); the South East had the lowest percentage (16.9%)
  • in every region except the West Midlands, the White British ethnic group had the highest percentage of claimants who had been claiming JSA for more than 104 weeks
  • the replacement of income-based JSA with Universal Credit affects regions differently, so regions cannot be directly compared

4. Methodology

The introduction of Universal Credit in 2013 affected the analysis of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claims over time. It led to some inconsistency in coverage and ongoing development work which has caused the series to be reclassified from National Statistics status to experimental official statistics.

As Universal Credit replaces JSA, only looking at JSA claims from 2013 onwards will result in an undercount of adults claiming a benefit while they are actively looking for work. As Universal Credit replaces JSA new claimants will start on Universal Credit rather than JSA. This means the average duration of JSA claims will increase naturally as there will be fewer new claims with short durations.

The JSA figures are drawn from the Jobcentre Plus administrative sources held by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The claimant count includes a small number of clerical (paper) claims (0.2%), which are not held on Jobcentre systems. There is limited data on these claims, so they are not included in any tables by ethnicity. The Office for National Statistics Labour Market Division analyses and publishes the data on clerical claims.

The data is extracted monthly, three weeks after the total number of claimants is counted. The time delay between the count and extraction allows time for the claim to be processed by Jobcentre Plus staff and validated as a live claim. It also allows for the full cycle of fortnightly interviews to occur between the count date and the extract being produced.

Length of time claiming JSA is calculated using the start date of the claim and either the end date or the end of the month from which the latest extract has been taken, if they are still claiming the benefit.

As the figures are calculated from administrative data they can be affected by changes to the benefits system and employment-related policy. More information about these changes and how they can influence data is available from the Quality and Methodology Information for JSA Claimant count.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Counts of less than 5 have not been included in the data, because the numbers involved are too small to draw any meaningful conclusions.


Percentages shown are rounded to 1 decimal place. Download the data to see caseload figures rounded to the nearest 5.

Related publications

Jobseeker’s Allowance by Age and Duration, ONS

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

UK Labour Market Statistical Bulletins

5. Data sources


Type of data

Administrative data

Type of statistic

Official statistics


Department for Work and Pensions

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

The data is an administrative source collected to enable Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to monitor and report on claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and other benefits.

6. Download the data

Jobseeker's Allowance how long people claim for - Spreadsheet (csv) 3 MB

This file contains data for January 2012 to July 2018. This file contains: ethnicity, time, geography, duration, number of cases, value, value type