Unemployment by qualification level

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • at almost every qualification level, White 16 to 64 year olds were the least likely to be unemployed in 2018 out of all ethnic groups
  • 2% of White people with a degree (or other level 4 qualification or above) were unemployed, the lowest percentage out of all ethnic groups
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.

Ethnic minority groups tend to have a smaller number of survey respondents. As a result, their estimates are less reliable than those for White people.

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 ethnic groupings used here are broad. There is no breakdown of data for the more specific ethnic groups, whose experiences might be very different to one another. For example, the Black ethnic group could include both recent migrants from Somalia and Black people born in Britain to British parents.

What the data measures

This data measures the percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who are unemployed and not in full-time education.

This is broken down by their highest level of qualification and ethnicity.

Someone is classed as unemployed if they:

  • don’t have a job
  • have been actively seeking work in the past 4 weeks
  • are available to start work in the next 2 weeks, or have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next 2 weeks

This definition of unemployment comes from the International Labour Organization. Unemployed people are classed as economically active.

Qualification level refers to someone's highest qualification, from the following:

  • level 4 or higher: degree level or equivalent (including HND, Bachelor degree and Master degree), or above
  • level 3: two or more A levels or equivalent (including advanced GNVQ, NVQ 3 or higher, and Scottish higher or advanced higher)
  • level 2: five or more GCSE passes at grades A* to C (or 9 to 4) or equivalent (including intermediate GNVQ, NVQ 2, and Scottish intermediate 2)
  • below level 2: fewer than 5 GCSE passes at grades A* to C (or 9-4) or equivalent (including foundation GNVQ, NVQ 1, and Scottish intermediate 1)
  • no qualifications

Trade apprenticeships are treated as being 50% NVQ level 2 and 50% NVQ level 3. This is in line with Office for National Statistics guidelines.

In the charts and tables, ‘other qualifications’ include:

  • qualifications from outside the UK
  • some professional qualifications where the level is not clear
The ethnic categories used in this data

For this data, the number of people surveyed was too small to draw any reliable conclusions about specific ethnic categories. Therefore, the data is broken down into the following 5 broad ethnic groups used in the 2011 Census:

  • Asian or Asian British
  • Black or Black British
  • Mixed
  • White (including White ethnic minorities)
  • Other

The data in the download file is also broken down by 2 ethnic groups:

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

2. By ethnicity and qualification level

Percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who were unemployed and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification held All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 3% 4% 6% 5% 3% 5%
Level 4 and above 2% 4% 6% 4% 2% 5%
Level 3 3% 5% 7% 8% 3% 7%
Level 2 4% 6% 7% 4% 3% 3%
Below Level 2 5% 6% 8% 5% 4% 6%
Other qualifications 4% 4% 7% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 3% 5%
No qualifications 4% 2% 4% 7% 4% 3%

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

Summary

This data shows that:

  • at almost every qualification level, White 16 to 64 year olds were the least likely to be unemployed in 2018 out of all ethnic groups
  • 2% of White 16 to 64 year olds with a degree (or other level 4 qualification) or above were unemployed, the lowest percentage out of all ethnic groups
  • although the table and chart show other differences, some of the results are based on small numbers of people so caution should be taken when making generalisations

3. By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)

Percentage of men aged 16 to 64 years who were unemployed and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification held All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 3% 4% 7% 6% 3% 5%
Level 4 and above 2% 3% 6% 4% 2% 5%
Level 3 3% 5% 7% 10% 3% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Level 2 4% 6% 7% 3% 4% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Below Level 2 5% 6% 10% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 5% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other qualifications 4% 3% 7% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 4% 6%
No qualifications 5% 3% 5% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 5% 4%

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (men only)’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • 2% of White men with a degree (or another level 4 qualification or above), and 3% of those with 2 or more A levels (or another level 3 qualification) were unemployed – these were the lowest rates out of all ethnic groups
  • the biggest unemployment rate gap between men from different ethnic groups was among those with 2 or more A levels (or another level 3 qualification), where 3% of White men and 10% of those with Mixed ethnicity were unemployed
  • although the table and chart show other differences, some of the results are based on small numbers of people so caution should be taken when making generalisations

4. By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)

Percentage of women aged 16 to 64 years who were unemployed and not in full-time education, by ethnicity and qualification level
Highest qualification held All Asian Black Mixed White Other
All 3% 5% 6% 4% 3% 4%
Level 4 and above 2% 4% 6% 3% 2% 5%
Level 3 3% 5% 7% 6% 3% 8%
Level 2 4% 6% 6% 5% 3% 2%
Below Level 2 4% 7% 7% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 4% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other qualifications 3% 6% 7% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 3% 4%
No qualifications 3% 2% 3% withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 4% 2%

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and qualification level (women only)’ (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • at almost every qualification level, women from the White ethnic group were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to be unemployed
  • among women with a degree (or another level 4 qualification), White women had the lowest unemployment rate (at 2%), and Black women had the highest (at 6%)
  • 3% of White women with 2 or more A levels (or another level 3 qualification) were unemployed, compared with 7% of Black women and 5% of Asian women
  • although the table and chart show other differences, some of the results are based on small numbers of people so caution should be taken when making generalisations

5. 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.

Weighting:

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:

Confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available if you download the data.

The APS is based on a sample of 16 to 64 year olds, rather than all 16 to 64 year olds in England, Wales and Scotland.

This page includes only reliable estimates ('statistically significant’) of the percentage of 16 to 64 year olds who were unemployed. However, it’s impossible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

For example, based on the APS results, it’s estimated that 3% of White 16 to 64 year olds who had a level four or above qualification were unemployed in 2018.

It is 95% certain that between 3.20% and 2.90% of White 16 to 64 year olds with a level four qualification or above were unemployed 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 in this range. 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, fewer Asian 16 to 64 year olds responded to the survey, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group.

Statistically significant findings have been determined where the 95% confidence intervals of an ethnic group do not overlap with the confidence interval for the group they're being compared with.

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.

Breaking the figures down by gender reduces sample sizes further and makes the figures less reliable. Data has been suppressed at some qualification levels for the Mixed and Other groups because of the very small numbers.

Rounding

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

6. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

National Statistics

Publisher

Office for National Statistics

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The Annual Population Survey (APS) is the largest ongoing household survey in the UK. It is based on interviews with members of randomly selected households.

The APS 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.

7. Download the data