The Office of Statistics Regulation (OSR) is delighted to be working on a review using the Code of Practice for Statistics to advise, challenge and support the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in its endeavours to improve the quality, granularity and timeliness of data which underpin official estimates of the UK labour market.

ONS is transforming the Labour Force Survey (LFS) using an online-first multimode survey that has been running in parallel alongside the existing LFS since March 2020. The plan is to use transformed LFS data for regular labour market statistical outputs from September 2023. Given the complexity and scale of the transformation of the LFS, OSR agreed to engage early and undertake a review against the Code of Practice for Statistics in stages.

OSR recognises and supports ONS’ ambitions to transform the LFS to improve the quality, coverage, adaptability and responsiveness of data collection to maximise its relevance and meet changing user needs. Following a steady decline in response rates and challenges faced in survey data collection during the Covid-19 pandemic, action was needed to improve the quality and robustness of these important estimates.

The LFS transformation is also taking place in the context of wider transformation of population and migration statistics. OSR is pleased to see close working between the LFS and other relevant teams in ONS to understand and manage the impact of these transformations on each other. ONS has an ambitious timetable, with plans to decommission the current LFS in June 2023.

Dr Alex Lambert, Director of ONS Surveys said:

The transformation of the Labour Force Survey is an exciting opportunity to make major improvements to one of ONS’s longest running headline surveys so that we can better meet user needs. I am grateful for the huge amount of work behind our recent superb progress and delighted that we’re now operating the transformed survey online, by telephone and knocking on doors across the country. OSR’s recent review has been invaluable in ensuring we focus our effort on what matters over the coming months as we take this ambitious project forward.

Mark Pont, OSR Assessment Lead said:

It is really encouraging to see that ONS is transforming the LFS, in addition to exploring opportunities to maximise greater use of administrative data to innovate and develop its labour market statistics. Maintaining public trust and confidence in the changes being made is really important and we would like to see a wide range of users better supported through more frequent and transparent communication.

Further Information

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is the regulatory arm of the UK Statistics Authority. We provide independent regulation of all official statistics produced in the UK assessed against the Code of Practice for Statistics.

The Code of Practice for Statistics applies to everyone in an organisation producing official statistics, including senior leaders, policy professionals, communications staff and other analysts. Official statistics should be compiled to the highest standards of quality to ensure decision-making is based on sound evidence.

The LFS is the main household survey that is used in the compilation of official estimates of the UK labour market. It plays a vital role in understanding changing dynamics and is a rich source of demographic data used to inform estimates of population change. The Annual Population Survey (APS) uses data collected from the LFS combined with local area boosts to allow for more detailed analysis. Data derived from the LFS and APS are used extensively, and are therefore highly valued, by a wide range of users. The ONS transformation programme encompasses both the LFS and APS.