Length of time spent in unemployment


1. Main facts and figures

  • in 2018, there were no real differences in the amount of time spent in unemployment between White people and those from the Other ethnic group (made up of all other ethnic groups combined)
Things you need to know

The data for this analysis comes from the Annual Population Survey (APS). The APS surveys a random sample of the population to make generalisations about the whole population.

The commentary for this data includes only reliable findings. Findings are reliable ('statistically significant’) when we can be confident they are reflective of the total population. This means we would get similar findings 19 times out of 20 if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population.

As with all surveys, the estimates from the APS are subject to a degree of uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for ethnic minority groups.

Results taken from a low number of responses are more likely to change from year to year. What appear to be changes over time might not reflect real differences. Please use caution when interpreting short-term trends in the data, especially for small groups.

Values based on fewer than 30 responses have been withheld from results for 'All' groups. Values based on fewer than 100 responses have been withheld from results for specific ethnic groups. This is both:

  • to protect respondents’ confidentiality
  • because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions

Higher-level figures may differ from those published by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics that use the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

The APS updated its ethnicity questions in 2011 so they were consistent with the censuses in England, Wales and Scotland. As a result, estimates from before and after 2011 may be inconsistent, and data for individual ethnic groups in 2011 is not available.

Download the data for both the data shown and additional estimates broken down by area and over time.

What the data measures

This data measures the length of time people in England, Wales and Scotland spent in unemployment. Data is broken down into 2 broad ethnic groups, White and Other than White.

In this data, the length of time someone is unemployed is the shortest out of:

  • the length of time they have been looking for work
  • the length of time since they last had a job

Estimates are shown for the following time periods:

  • 0 to 3 months
  • 3 to 12 months
  • 1 year or more

A person is counted as unemployed if all 3 of the following apply:

  • they are out of work
  • they are available to start work in the next 2 weeks
  • they have either been looking for work in the past 4 weeks or have found a job and are waiting to start it

This is the International Labour Organisation’s definition of ‘unemployment’. It is often used in published statistics in the UK. It gives a more accurate picture than alternatives as it includes people regardless of whether or not they are claiming benefits.

The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people surveyed was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. So the data is broken down into the following 2 categories:

  • White – White ethnic groups (including White British and White ethnic minorities)
  • Other than White – all other ethnic groups combined

People whose ethnicity is not known are included in the figures for ‘All’.

2. By ethnicity

Percentage and number of people who were unemployed, by ethnicity and time spent in unemployment
All White Other than White
Duration All % All Number of people unemployed White % White Number of people unemployed Other than White % Other than White Number of people unemployed
0-3 months 44 600,400 45 473,100 42 126,500
3-12 months 31 415,400 30 321,800 31 93,600
1+ years 25 336,300 25 260,300 25 75,700

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


This data shows that:

  • in 2018, there were no real differences in the amount of time spent in unemployment between White people and those from the Other ethnic group (made up of all other ethnic groups combined)
  • 45% of White unemployed people were unemployed for less than 3 months, compared with 42% of those from the Other ethnic group
  • 30% of White unemployed people were unemployed for 3 to 12 months, compared with 31% of those from the Other ethnic group
  • 25% of unemployed people from both the White and Other ethnic groups were unemployed for 1 year or more

3. Methodology

The Annual Population Survey is a continuous household survey. Most people are interviewed in person first, and later by telephone.

The sample is formed from:

  • waves 1 and 5 of the Labour Force Survey (in which selected addresses are contacted every 3 months)
  • boost cases that are in the sample for 4 waves, spread one year apart

Participants are randomly selected from the Royal Mail postcode address file. The NHS communal accommodation list is also used and (in the case of remote parts of Scotland) telephone directories. All eligible individuals found at the selected address may be interviewed.

People are included in the dataset for this analysis if they respond themselves or if a family member responds on their behalf. The complex survey design has been taken into account when calculating confidence intervals.


The sample of approximately 275,000 people undergoes weighting at local authority level, using age and sex dimensions.

Weighting adjusts the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and make them more reliable.

For example, a survey of 25 women and 75 men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which is around 50% male and 50% female.

The weighting for this data is based on Office for National Statistics population statistics.

Confidence intervals:

Download the data for confidence intervals for each ethnic group.

The APS is based on a sample of the population in England, Wales and Scotland, rather than the whole population.

This page includes only reliable estimates ('statistically significant’) of the percentage of individuals who were unemployed. However, it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

For example, based on the APS results, it is estimated that 45% of unemployed people in the White ethnic group had been unemployed for less than 3 months in 2018. It’s 95% certain that somewhere between 42.6% and 47.4% of unemployed people in the White ethnic group had been unemployed for 0 to 3 months in 2018. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall between the lower and upper bounds of the confidence interval. But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.

The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, the sample has less data for individuals from the Other ethnic group than from the White ethnic group, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty is expressed by a wider confidence interval of between 37.0% and 47.0% for the Other ethnic group compared with 42.6% and 47.4% for the White ethnic group in 2018.

Suppression rules and disclosure control

In data covering all ethnic groups together, estimates based on sample sizes of less than 30 have been suppressed. For data broken down by ethnic groups, estimates based on sample sizes under 100 have been suppressed.

‘Suppression’ means these figures have not been included in the data, to protect confidentiality and because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.


Estimates in the charts and tables are rounded to whole percentages. Estimates in the download file are rounded to 1 decimal place.

Quality and methodology information

4. Data sources


Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics


Office for National Statistics

Publication frequency


Purpose of data source

The Annual Population Survey (APS) is the largest ongoing household survey in the UK and covers a range of topics, including:

  • personal characteristics
  • labour market status
  • work characteristics
  • education
  • health

The purpose of the APS is to provide information on important social and socio-economic variables at local levels, such as labour market estimates.

The published statistics also allow government to monitor estimates on a range of issues between Censuses.

5. Download the data

Length of unemployment - Spreadsheet (csv) 310 KB

This file contains the following: Measure, Measure_type, Ethnicity, Ethnicity_type, Time, Time_type, Region, Value, Confidence_interval, Numerator , Denominator, Sample_size