Length of time spent in unemployment

The main facts and figures show that:

  • the length of time that White people spent in unemployment is, on average, shorter than for people from all other ethnic groups

  • compared to White people, a higher percentage of people from all other ethnic groups were unemployed for 3 months or more, while a lower percentage were unemployed for 0 to 3 months

  • new data has been published for the year 2017 – this data isn’t currently reflected in the charts, tables and commentary on this page, but you can get a CSV file with the latest figures if you download the data

Things you need to know

This analysis is based on the Annual Population Survey (APS), which is a ‘sample survey’. It collects information from a random sample of the population to make generalisations (reach 'findings') about the total population.

The commentary for this data includes only reliable, or ‘statistically significant’, findings. Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample.

Specifically, the statistical tests used mean we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population, 19 times out of 20 we would get similar findings.

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.

Smaller numbers of survey respondents from ethnic minority backgrounds mean that estimates for all other ethnic groups are more unreliable than estimates for White people (which includes White British and White ethnic minorities).

Results taken from a low number of responses are more likely to be affected by statistical variation, so observed changes might not reflect real differences. As such, caution is needed when interpreting short-term trends in the data, especially for sub groups (for example, a specific ethnic group, age group and gender).

When looking at data for ‘All’ groups, any values based on fewer than 30 responses have been withheld, and when further breaking down the data by ethnicity, any values based on fewer than 100 responses have been withheld. This is to protect confidentiality or because the numbers involved are too small to draw any reliable conclusions.

Data is sourced from the Annual Population Survey to get lower level details such as information by local authority area. Higher-level figures may differ slightly from reports published by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Office for National Statistics that also use the Labour Force Survey (LFS).

Changes were made to the LFS (and therefore the Annual Population Survey) ethnicity questions in January to March 2011, to bring them more in line with Census data collection on these topics. In April to June 2011 further changes were made to the ethnicity questions to bring them in line with Scottish Census data collection. As a result, there may be some inconsistencies with estimates from earlier than 2011.

What the data measures

This data measures the length of time a person has been unemployed and how this compares across different ethnic groups.

In this data, the length of time a person is unemployed is calculated as whichever is the shorter of:

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

The data is divided into time periods of 0 to 3 months, 3 to 12 months, and 1 year or more. Each of these time periods is reported as a percentage of the total number of people who are unemployed within each ethnic group. For example, in 2016, 42% of all unemployed people were unemployed for between 0 and 3 months.

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 actively 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’ and is often used in published UK statistics. It gives more accurate figures for unemployment than alternatives such as a count of claimants for out-of-work benefits.

The figures come from the Annual Population Survey, which is a general household survey covering the UK. It uses data from the Labour Force Survey as well as other local data.

The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people surveyed (the ‘sample size’) was too small to draw any firm conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 2 broad groups:

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

People whose ethnicity is 'Unknown' (because their ethnicity was not recorded or they chose not to state their ethnicity) are counted in measurements for ‘All’ groups, such as all people in employment. However they are not counted where data is broken down by White and Other.

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Time spent in unemployment

Time spent in unemployment by ethnicity

Unemployment period All White Other
% % %
0-3 months 42 43 37
3-12 months 32 31 35
12+ months 26 25 28

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • compared to people from White groups, people from all other ethnic groups tend to spend slightly longer in unemployment

  • among unemployed people in 2016, a higher percentage of White people (43%) were unemployed for 0 to 3 months, compared to all other ethnic groups (37%)

  • among unemployed people in 2016, a higher percentage of people from all other ethnic groups (35%) were unemployed for 3 to 12 months than White people (31%) and for 1 year or more (28% compared to 25% respectively)

Methodology

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 partly from waves 1 and 5 of the Labour Force Survey (in which selected addresses are contacted every 3 months) and partly from 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 (PAF). 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. Individuals 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.

Weighting

The achieved sample of approximately 275,000 undergoes weighting which is structured at local authority level and uses age and sex dimensions. Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy.

For example, a survey which contains 25% females and 75% males will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know is around 50% male and 50% female.

Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable. Survey weights are usually applied to make sure the survey sample has broadly the same gender, age, ethnic and geographic make up as the general population.

The Office for National Statistics population estimates and projections are used as the basis for this weighting process.

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.

Related publications

Labour Force Survey quality and methodology information

Annual Population Survey quality and methodology information

Data sources

Source

Annual Population Survey

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Experimental statistics

Publisher

Department for Work and Pensions

Publication frequency

Quarterly

Purpose of data source

Survey data, collected to allow analysis of labour market and related topics at a lower level than is possible in the Labour Force Survey.

Download the data

Length of time spent in unemployment - Spreadsheet (csv) 121 KB

This file contains data for the years 2004 to 2016. This is the data used in the charts, tables and commentary shown on this page. This file contains the following: length of time in unemployment, ethnicity, time, region, numerator, denominator, sample size, value and confidence intervals

Length of time spent in unemployment V.2 - Spreadsheet (csv) 117 KB

This file contains data for the years 2004 to 2017. This is the latest data available, but does not reflect the figures shown in the charts, tables and commentary on this page. This file contains the following: length of time in unemployment, ethnicity, time, region, numerator, denominator, sample size, value and confidence intervals