Confirmation of National Statistics Designation for UK Employment and Jobs Statistics produced by the Office for National Statistics
We have reviewed the actions that your team has taken to address the requirements in Assessment Report number 349: UK Employment and Jobs Statistics. The employment and jobs statistics are key economic indicators that are essential for understanding the patterns and dynamics of the UK labour market. On behalf of the Board of the UK Statistics Authority, I am pleased to confirm the continued designation of National Statistics for the statistics covered in our assessment.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to heightened interest in labour market statistics. The statistics team has responded very positively to this demand while also addressing the Requirements of our report. The team has made greater use of administrative data to understand employment and vacancies in a timely way. It is also good to see a range of developments aimed at improving the accessibility of labour market statistics, including the creation of a Comparisons of Labour Market Data Sources and the use of dashboards in the labour market overview to summarise the latest data for the key indicators.
We have included more detail about our judgement in an annex to this letter. I, or my team, would be happy to talk to you or your colleagues through any aspects of this letter or Code compliance more generally.
National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and value and is something to be celebrated. We welcome that you already publish a statement alongside the statistics which reflects the National Statistics status, and we encourage you to update this on an ongoing basis as you continue to develop the statistics.
I am copying this letter to David Freeman, head of labour market statistics.
Director General for Regulation
Annex: Review of actions taken in response to Assessment Report 349: Assessment of UK Employment and Jobs Statistics, produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)
To ensure that the statistics keep pace with the changing labour market, and meet user needs for data and insight, ONS should:
- work closely with a range of users to understand their data needs and to identify potential solutions to filling data gaps, including the use of alternativedata sources
- prioritise work on exploring alternative data sources to generate more granular estimates of vacancies
- work closely with funders and partners to continue the APS
- explore opportunities for including analysis on a range of topics highlighted by users
Actions taken by ONS:
- The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased interest in the labour market statistics. The statistics team met regularly with key stakeholders to update them on issues and to discuss priorities. This was particularly important when carrying out the Labour Force Survey (LFS) reweighting, to mitigate the issues arising from the absence of face-to-face interviews.
- In May 2020, ONS introduced experimental weekly estimates from the LFS for employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and hours in the UK. The statistics helped users to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market on a week-by-week basis, which allowed ONS to see when large movements in the data occurred such as the fall in actual hours worked at the start of the first lockdown.
- ONS has started publishing more-timely vacancies estimates using online job advert data from Adzuna, which have only a 6-day lag. ONS introduced this administrative data source to its bulletins to aid interpretation of its vacancies data from June 2020.
- Making more use of ad-hoc releases to get the right information out where resource has been under pressure. Working closely with other analytical teams to answer the immediate questions by drawing on their support.
- The future of the Annual Population Survey (APS) is being explored as part of the LFS/Labour Market Statistics (LMS) transformation, to ensure that any solution enables users of APS (particularly in the devolved administrations (DAs)) to still be met. ONS is engaging regularly with the DAs.
We commend the team for taking a more proactive approach to user engagement since our assessmentreport was published. This was particularly clear during the reweighting of LFS, where the statistics team ensured it spoke with a range of users to inform its thinking. It has also used this feedback to continually review how it tells the story of labour market statistics, which led to the introduction of a dashboard of key indicators in the labour market overview.
To maximise the value of these new data, ONS needs to develop and publish a plan for how it intends to integrate the RTI data with existing survey data.
Actions taken by ONS:
- The COVID-19 pandemic helped bring forward the development work of the real-time information (RTI) data. ONS continues to work closely with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and other government departments to understand the data and agree priorities. A quarterly RTI Steering Group has been set up to facilitate these discussions and to share updates on the development work.
- More breakdowns are being developed – industry and age by region along with more detail at NUTS3 and LAU1 levels, along with more work on revisions and how to present the data.
- Following the publication of RTI PAYE data by nationality, ONS has used the data in producing new weights for the LFS and APS. Using these data ONS introduced an additional control in the weighting in relation to the structure of the population by country of birth. The weights were introduced for the headline LFS series in the release in July 2021.
- ONS and HMRC jointly published an update of the data by NUTS1 region and nationality in March 2022, and are working on providing annual updates.
While this work is ongoing, we are impressed with the developments that have already taken place since the assessment was carried out and we are pleased to see the continued collaboration between ONS and HMRC. OSR plans to review RTI-based statistics as part of its 2022/23 work programme.
To maximise insight and help users better understand trends in employment and jobs, the labour market statistics team should:
- integrate information on uncertainty and explain reasons for changes to put them into context
- draw together analysis to tell a joined-up story of employment and jobs and consider integrating the economic commentary analysis into the labour market bulletins
The QMI and comparisons of data sources article are clear and inform users about the strengths and limitations of the statistics, to support appropriate use.
See also response to requirement 1.
To enhance the accessibility and use of the employment and jobs statistics and data, the labour market statistics team should improve signposting of related statistics across the website and consider developing practical guidance for users.
The team has significantly enhanced the coherence and accessibility of the statistics by explaining clearly the differences between employment and jobs statistics, and signposting relevant and related information across the related outputs.
To enhance the coherence of the employment and jobs statistics, the labour market statistics team should:
- lead collaborative work to understand and mitigate divergences and explain to users the nature, scale and drivers of discrepancies
- be more curious in seeking out opportunities to use alternative data sources to quality assure the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES) data
While ONS has concluded that it is not possible to change its quality assurance process for BRES with the current available data for local units, it will be important for ONS to be open to exploring alternative data sources that may arise in the future, to address the concerns highlighted in our report.
ONS should prioritise and invest in the development of a centrally supported platform for producing the key labour market statistics.
While a centrally supported platform for these statistics has not been created, the principles underlying the requirement have been addressed through the ARIES programme.
To enhance the quality of the BRES statistics and support user understanding of methods, ONS should:
- review and update the BRES sample allocation
- implement the new size-band calibration weights as soon as possible and communicate all changes in methods to users
The end–product of this work is yet to be published but we are assured that the work has been done to address this requirement. We will continue to monitor the development of BRES as part of ongoing engagement.
To reassure itself and users of the quality of all the administrative data sources, the labour market statistics team should apply our Quality Assurance of Administrative Data (QAAD) framework.
ONS’s existing quality initiatives provide reassurance about the quality of the sources it uses. ONS’s plans to expand its published Comparisons of Sources document will provide further reassurances to users. ONS still plans to complete a self-assessment against the QAAD framework.
To enhance the clarity and accessibility of the quality and methods information, the labour market statistics team should:
- explain which statistics and data are available, the level of detail available, and which statistics should be used to answer specific questions
- signpost clearly relevant quality and methods information across all outputs
- regularly update all quality and methods information
To ensure that the statistics continue to add value and meet needs of users, ONS should:
- dedicate enough resources to, and sufficiently prioritise, the development of the employment and jobs statistics
- ensure the labour market statistics team is adequately resourced to publish all outputs
We consider that these arrangements will help ensure the statistics continue to be produced in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics.
To inform users of upcoming changes to the statistics, and to demonstrate and encourage further user engagement, ONS should:
- publish regular updates, including a timetable, about the LFS transformation programme and other statistical developments
- publish a summary of its current and planned user engagement activities
We are pleased that ONS is engaging with OSR throughout the development of the LMS. We encourage ONS to continue to share its plans and progress on LMS with users more widely.
To ensure that administrative data are transferred securely, and used and managed appropriately, the labour market statistics team should review the administrative data sharing arrangements and documentation.
We consider that the evidence demonstrates ONS’ commitment to trustworthiness.