Unemployment/Addendum

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This addendum is a continuation of the article Unemployment.

Unemployment statistics - methodology

International definitions

United Nations

Resolution concerning statistics of the economically active population, employment, unemployment and underemployment, adopted by In 1982 the Thirteenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians recommended the following definition[1]

(1) The "unemployed" comprise all persons above a specified age who during the reference period were: (a)"without work", i.e. were not in paid employment or self-employment, (b) "currently available for work", i.e. were available for paid employment or self-employment during the reference period; and (c) "seeking work", i.e. had taken specific steps in a specified reference period to seek paid employment or self-employment. (The specific steps may include registration at a public or private employment exchange; application to employers; checking at worksites, farms, factory gates, market or other assembly places; placing or answering newspaper advertisements; seeking assistance of friends or relatives; looking for land, building, machinery or equipment to establish own enterprise; arranging for financial resources; applying for permits and licences, etc.

2) In situations where the conventional means of seeking work are of limited relevance, where the labour market is largely unorganized or of limited scope, where labour absorption is, at the time, inadequate, or where the labour force is largely self-employed, the standard definition of unemployment given in subparagraph (1) above may be applied by relaxing the criterion of seeking work.
(3) In the application of the criterion of current availability for work, especially in situations covered by subparagraph (2) above, appropriate tests should be developed to suit national circumstances. Such tests may be based on notions such as present desire for work and previous work experience, willingness to take up work for wage or salary on locally prevailing terms, or readiness to undertake self-employment activity given the necessary resources and facilities.
(4) Notwithstanding the criterion of seeking work embodied in the standard definition of unemployment, persons without work and currently available for work who had made arrangements to take up paid employment or undertake self-employment activity at a date subsequent to the reference period should be considered as unemployed.
(5) Persons temporarily absent from their jobs with no formal job attachment who were currently available for work and seeking work should also be regarded as unemployed in accordance with the standard definition of unemployment. Countries may, however, depending on national circumstances and policies, prefer to relax the seeking work criterion in the case of persons temporarily laid off. In such cases, persons temporarily laid off who were not seeking work but classified as unemployed should be identified as a separate subcategory.
(6) Students, homemakers and others mainly engaged in non-economic activities during the reference period who satisfy the criteria laid down in subparagraphs (1) and (2) above should be regarded as unemployed on the same basis as other categories of unemployed identified separately, where possible.

National definitions of unemployment may differ from the recommended international standard definition. The national definitions used vary from one country to another as regards inter alia age limits, reference periods, criteria for seeking work, treatment of persons temporarily laid off and of persons seeking work for the first time. Differences between countries with regard to the treatment of unemployed persons with respect to classification by status in employment are particularly pronounced. In general, unemployed persons with previous job experience, classified according to their last job, are included with employees, but in some cases they and unemployed persons seeking their first job form the most important part of the group persons not classifiable by status.

OECD

The OECD defines the number unemployed as persons above a specified age, who during the reference period were:

- without work, i.e. were not in paid employment or self-employment during the reference period;
- currently available for work, i.e. were available for paid employment or self-employment during the reference period; and,
- seeking work, i.e. had taken specific steps in a specified recent period to seek paid employment or self-employment.

The specific steps may include registration at a public or private employment exchange; application to employers; checking at worksites, farms, factory gates, market or other assembly places; placing or answering newspaper advertisements; seeking assistance of friends or relatives; looking for land, building, machinery or equipment to establish own enterprise; arranging for financial resources; applying for permits and licences, etc.[2]

Europe

An unemployed person is defined by Eurostat, according to the guidelines of the International Labour Organization[3] as:

  • someone aged 15 to 74 (in Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Norway: 16 to 74 years);
  • without work during the reference week;
  • available to start work within the next two weeks (or has already found a job to start within the next three months);
  • actively having sought employment at some time during the last four weeks.

The unemployment rate is the number of people unemployed as a percentage of the labour force.

National definitions

The United States

The United States Department of Labor publishes six "Measures of Labor Underutilization[4]" defined as:

  • U-1 Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
  • U-2 Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
  • U-3 Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate);
  • U-4 Total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers;
  • U-5 Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers;
  • U-6 Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.

Collection methods

The preferred method of collecting unemployment data is by household survey, but administrative records of those seeking unemployment benefit provide a cheaper alternative. Published accounts of the methods used by the United States [5], the European Union[6] and the United Kingdom [7] are published online.

Unemployment statistics - sources

The International Labour Organisation publishes national[8] and internationally comparable[9] statistical series for a wide range of countries, together with accounts of national definitions and methodologies[10] [11].

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development publishes harmonised unemployment numbers and rates for its member countries [12].

The United Nations publishes male, female and youth unemployment rates for a wide range of countries for the years 1985-2005[13]

Unemployment statistics - trends

(annual average unemployment rates, US definition, per cent)

Trends

  USA    Japan   France Germany  Italy    UK   
2009 9.3 4.8 9.1 7.8 7.9 7.7
2000-2006 5.1 4.3 8.4 9.3 8.5 5.0
1990-1999 5.8 2.8 10.0 7.9 9.8 8.2
1980-1989 7.3 2.5 8.3 5.9 6.4 10.0
1970-1979 6.2 1.7 3.6 2.1 3.7 4.2

Peak years

  USA    Japan   France Germany  Italy    UK   
1997 9.9
1994 10.9 11.3 10.4
1987 7.5
1985 9.5
1984 7.1 11.8
1983 8.6

Youth unemployment- 2009 and earlier peak years

  USA    Japan   France Germany  Italy    UK   
2009 17.6 8.8 21.6 11.2 25.7 19.2
1997 26.4 10.6 30.4
1993 18.0
1992 14.2
1987 25.8
1985 24.1
1984 10.7 19.8
1982 17.8

Source: United States Bureau of Labour Statistics[1]

References