Employment and unemployment (Labour force survey) (employ)

Reference Metadata in Euro SDMX Metadata Structure (ESMS)

Compiling agency: Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union


Eurostat metadata
Reference metadata
1. Contact
2. Metadata update
3. Statistical presentation
4. Unit of measure
5. Reference Period
6. Institutional Mandate
7. Confidentiality
8. Release policy
9. Frequency of dissemination
10. Accessibility and clarity
11. Quality management
12. Relevance
13. Accuracy
14. Timeliness and punctuality
15. Coherence and comparability
16. Cost and Burden
17. Data revision
18. Statistical processing
19. Comment
Related Metadata
Annexes (including footnotes)

Eurostat and National Quality Reports according to ESQRS (ESS Standard for Quality Reports Structure)
National metadata



For any question on data and metadata, please contact: EUROPEAN STATISTICAL DATA SUPPORT

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1. Contact Top
1.1. Contact organisation

Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union

1.2. Contact organisation unit

F3: Labour market

1.5. Contact mail address

2920 Luxembourg LUXEMBOURG


2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 14/12/2018
2.2. Metadata last posted 24/01/2019
2.3. Metadata last update 24/01/2019


3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

The domain Employment and Unemployment is mainly but not only based on the results of the European Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS). Few indicators use other data sources like national accounts employment or registered unemployment.

The structure of this domain is as follows:

  • 'LFS main indicators' consists of a selection of the most important monthly, quarterly and annual  labour market indicators, most of them based on EU-LFS.
  • 'LFS series - detailed quarterly survey results' and 'LFS series - detailed annual survey results' is a more comprehensive selection of data from the EU-LFS.
  • 'LFS series - specific topics' report annual regional data (NUTS III) and annual data on households (both households demographics and labour market results by household type).
  • 'LFS series - adhoc modules' report annual results for some EU-LFS adhoc modules. Other adhoc module results are published in other domains where they better fit (e.g. in education statistics or health statistics).

The rest of this document provides general information on the EU-LFS or explanations applicable to all the sections named above. More specific information for some of those domains can be found in the respective ESMS pages (please see links in section 'related metadata').

The EU-LFS is a quarterly household sample survey carried out in the Member States of the European Union, Candidate Countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey)and EFTA countries (except for Liechtenstein). It is the main source of information about the situation and trends on the labour market in the European Union. The EU-LFS is organised in 12 modules covering demographic background, labour status, employment characteristics of the main job, atypical work, working time, employment characteristics of the second job, previous work experience of persons not in employment, search for employment, main labour status, education and training, situation one year before the survey and income.

The survey's target population consists of all persons in private households, although the variables related to labour market are only collected for persons aged 15 years or older.

For details see Council Regulation (EC) No 577/98 of 9 March 1998 on the organisation of a labour force sample survey in the Community (OJ No L 77/3).

Since 1999 an inherent part of the European Union EU-LFS are the so called 'ad-hoc modules'.

Detailed information on the main features, the legal basis, the methodology and the data as well as on the historical development of the EU-LFS is available on the EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) webpage.

3.2. Classification system

The EU-LFS results are produced in accordance with the relevant international classification systems. The main classifications used are NACE Rev.1 (NACE Rev.1.1 from 2005) and NACE Rev. 2 (from 2008) for economic activity, ISCO 88 (COM) and ISCO 08 (from 2011) for occupation, ISCED 2011 (from 2014) for the level of education and ISCED-F 2013 for the field of education is in use since 2016, replacing the former ISCED 1997 codes. Actual coding in the EU-LFS may deviate to some extent from those general standards; for more details on classifications (including the comparability between the revised classifications), levels of aggregation and transition rules, please consult EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Methodology >> classifications.

EU-LFS also uses a classification of degree of urbanisation (this is a developed version of 'rural/urban' categorisation). This classification maps geographical areas (at level Local Administrative Units - Level 2/municipalities) into three categories with low, medium or high degree of urbanisation. This is done using a criterion of geographical contiguity in combination with a minimum population threshold based on population grid square cells of 1 km². The classification has been revised (from 2012). For more details, please consult: Eurostat-RAMON (Reference And Management Of Nomenclatures).

3.3. Coverage - sector

As a general rule the EU-LFS covers all economic sectors.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

The European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) provides population estimates for the main labour market characteristics, such as employment, unemployment, inactivity, hours of work, occupation, economic activity and other labour related variables, as well as important socio-demographic characteristics, such as sex, age, education, household characteristics and regions of residence.

The definitions of employment and unemployment, as well as other survey characteristics follow the definitions and recommendations of the International Labour Organisation. The definition of unemployment is further specified in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000.

For more details, please consult the EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Methodology.

3.5. Statistical unit

Persons and households

3.6. Statistical population

The EU-LFS results cover the total population usually residing in Member States, except for persons living in collective or institutional households. While demographic data are gathered for all age groups, questions relating to labour market status are restricted to persons in the age group of 15 years or older. In the EFTA countries participating in LFS, i.e. Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, population data are not provided for the age-groups outside the scope of labour market questions. The EU-LFS covers all industries and occupations.

For more details and exceptions, please consult the EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Methodology.

3.7. Reference area

European Union, Euro area, EU-Member States, Candidate Countries (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey), EFTA Countries (except for Liechtenstein), USA and Japan. Data for Cyprus refer only to the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. Since 2014, data for France include also the French overseas departments (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyane, La Réunion), with the exception of Mayotte.

3.8. Coverage - Time

Data for all Member States are mostly available from 1999 or 2000 onwards. Data relating to the former EU-15 are available from 1995 onwards. Data relating to the former EU-12 are available from 1987 onwards. Results for Candidate Countries date back to 2002 and for EFTA countries to 1995. Data for earlier years (since 1983) are only available in electronic format. Household data with tabulation by household composition, number of children, age of the youngest child and household working status are available from 2005.

3.9. Base period

Not applicable


4. Unit of measure Top

Most results measure number of persons (thousands). Some indicators are reported as rates (employment, unemployment rates) or growth rates. Some variables are reported in other units (ages in years, working time in hours, etc.).


5. Reference Period Top

The EU-LFS is designed as a continuous quarterly survey with interviews spread uniformly over all weeks of a quarter.  The reference week starts on Monday and ends on Sunday. By convention, the first week of the year is the week including the first Thursday, and the 1st reference quarter consists of 13 consecutive weeks starting from that week. A similar Thursday rule is applied to months in order to derive the reference month. All reference weeks (13 in general) are basically assigned to define the reference quarter according to this rule as well. Exceptions are Ireland and the United Kingdom, which used until 2006 the seasonal quarter (Dec-Feb, Mar-May, Jun-Aug, Sep-Nov). 

Annual data encompass the four reference quarters in the year.

Before early 2000s the EU-LFS was conducted annually in spring, rather than quarterly. Spring was considered a period representative of the labour situation in the whole year. The changeover from an annual survey to a continuous, quarterly survey took place between 1998 and 2004, depending on the Member State. For more information on the transition to a quarterly continuous survey, please consult the EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Development and history.


6. Institutional Mandate Top
6.1. Institutional Mandate - legal acts and other agreements

The EU-LFS is based on European legislation since 1973. Its implementation is governed by legislative acts of the Council and Parliament, as well as of the Commission. The principal legal act is the Council Regulation(EC) No. 577/98. The implementation rules are specified in the successive Commission regulations. This is the main regulation with provisions on design, survey characteristics and decision making processes. For more details on the regulations, please consult EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Main features and legal basis.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Not applicable


7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 on European statistics (recital 24 and Article 20(4)) of 11 March 2009 (OJ L 87, p. 164), stipulates the need to establish common principles and guidelines ensuring the confidentiality of data used for the production of European statistics and the access to those confidential data with due account for technical developments and the requirements of users in a democratic society.

7.2. Confidentiality - data treatment

EU-LFS microdata as received by Eurostat from the national statistical institutes do not contain any administrative information such as names or addresses that would allow direct identification. Access to this microdata is nevertheless strictly controlled and limited to specified Eurostat staff.

After data treatment, records are aggregated for further use. Each dataset is complemented by the transmission of metadata, in particular confidentiality/reliability thresholds. These thresholds provide the size of the population group below which data shall either not be published, or be published with a flag. Aggregated data published in Eurobase follow these confidentiality rules: data are blanked or flagged if they are below these reliability limits.

Under specific conditions (see Council Regulation (EEC) No. 577/98 of 9 March 1998), researchers may access specific microdatasets. To avoid disclosure of confidential data, these data are "anonymised", on the basis of a list of anonymisation criteria agreed with the National Statistical Institutes. Please refer to access to microdata.

For more information on publications guidelines, thresholds and microdata availability for researchers, please consult: EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Data and publications.


8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

EU-LFS main indicators data are released according to a quarterly release calendar. Annual results are released at the same time as the fourth quarter. There is a different, separate release calendar for monthly unemployment data.

Data in 'EU-LFS series, detailed survey results' are updated once a week, as new and revised country data become available and are validated.

8.2. Release calendar access

The release dates of monthly unemployment data are disseminated on Eurostat's website.

For other data in 'LFS main indicators', the precise release date is disseminated in the EU LFS dedicated section found in the Eurostat's website.

8.3. Release policy - user access

In line with the Community legal framework and the European Statistics Code of Practice Eurostat disseminates European statistics on Eurostat's website (see item 10 - 'Accessibility and clarity') respecting professional independence and in an objective, professional and transparent manner in which all users are treated equitably. The detailed arrangements are governed by the Eurostat protocol on impartial access to Eurostat data for users.


9. Frequency of dissemination Top

The frequencies of the data are monthly (only for unemployment), quarterly, annual. The frequency of the dissemination is explained above under 8.1.


10. Accessibility and clarity Top
10.1. Dissemination format - News release

News releases on-line for unemployment (monthly) ad-hoc module results (annually) and specific insights (occasionally).

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

Eurostat publishes SiFs, articles in Statistics Explained and contributions to flagship publications (Yearbook, etc.) SiFs are gradually discontinued by SE. For more details, please consult: EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - data and publication.

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

Eurostat also produces tailor-made tables not available online at the request of users (please refer to http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/help/support)

Unit F3 processes more than 1,300 user request per year

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

EU-LFS anonymised microdata are available for research purposes. Please refer to access to microdata.

10.5. Dissemination format - other

See: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat

10.6. Documentation on methodology

For a detailed description of methods and concepts used, as well as for other documents related to the EU-LFS, please consult the EU-LFS (Statistics Explained)  - methodology.

The EU-LFS disseminates also publications on the methodology of the survey. For more information please consult: Quality reports and methodological publications.

10.7. Quality management - documentation

See section 11.1.


11. Quality management Top
11.1. Quality assurance

The concern for the quality of the EU-LFS is expressed in Regulations and reflected in harmonised definitions and discussed in Working groups (such as the Labour Markey Statistics Working Group and its predecessor the Employment Statistics Working Group), workshops and seminars within the European Statistical System (ESS).

Major milestones in the improvement of EU-LFS quality have been the adoption of Council Regulation (EC) No 577/98 on the organisation of a continuous, quarterly sample survey in the Community; the adoption of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000 concerning the operational definition of unemployment and the 12 principles for formulating questions on labour status; the adoption of Regulation (EC) No 1991/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council making the continuous survey mandatory from 2003 onwards (except Italy from 2004 and Germany from 2005) and the adoption of Regulation (EC) No 2257/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council extending the survey characteristics and introducing the distinction between structural and quarterly variables.

Eurostat and the Member States continuously work also to improve the quality of the survey on a voluntary basis beyond legal obligations. Annual quality reports were introduced in 2002 and quarterly accuracy reports were introduced in 2004 as well as the quality reports for the  hoc modules. At the initiative of Member States, a programme of annual LFS workshops was started in 2005.

A Task Force on the Quality of the EU-LFS, in 2009, reviewed the quality of the survey along the dimensions of the Eurostat's quality framework. It issued recommendations that have paved the way for future improvement regarding the relevance of the ILO concept of employment and unemployment, sampling design and sampling errors, weighting schemes, non-response, interviewers and fieldwork organization, survey modes, information for users, quality assessment and, more in general, quality assurance, coherence, cross-country comparability and change management.

11.2. Quality management - assessment

EU-LFS statistics have overall high quality. National LFS are considered as reliable sources applying high standards with regard to the methodology. However, the EU-LFS, like any survey, is based upon a sample of the population. The results are therefore subject to the usual types of errors associated with random sampling. Based on the sample size and design in the various Member States, Eurostat implements basic guidelines intended to avoid publication of figures that are unreliable or to give warning of the unreliability of the figures.


12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

EU-LFS results are used by the DG Employment and a number of other Directorates of the Commission mainly for measurement and monitoring of policy agenda purposes. The European Central Bank (ECB) uses short term LFS statistics related to Euro area. Key users include NSI's, international organizations, news agencies and researchers which use various aspects of EU-LSF data for international or intra EU comparisons. Finally, LFS data are used by Eurostat for compiling detailed regional indicators, for estimates on current education and education levels, higher education and research, and for accurate estimates of labour input of national accounts.

The main indicators stemming from the EU-LFS are used for monitoring and measurement of core employment policy objectives of the Community. Please refer to the ESMS page on 'LFS- main indicators' (see link below in section 'related metadata').

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

Eurostat does not carry out regular satisfaction surveys targeted only at users of labour market statistics but a general Eurostat User Satisfaction Survey is carried out every year to collect feedback on the quality of its statistics. The survey is usually addressed to the registered Eurostat users who are mainly students, academic, private users, business government and international organizations.

 

All new requests for labour market statistics are subject to scrutiny by the national experts and representatives of the NSIs and in particular for major topics of interest, for social research the instrument of ad hoc modules is used. The main institutional users other than the Commission are also known to the unit for Labour Market Statistics. Many of them are frequently consulted on various aspects of development and dissemination of labour force statistics.

12.3. Completeness

Even if otherwise adhering to the EU regulations on the EU-LFS, countries do not always provide data for all the variables. This can be for various reasons, such as assessment that the variable in question is irrelevant to the labour market situation in the country or (temporary) inability to implement the variable in the national questionnaire. Also, data availability depends on fulfilling confidentiality and accuracy requirements. Thus, some indicators may be partially incomplete for some breakdowns.


13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall

The overall accuracy is considered as high. The LFS covers persons living in private households to ensure a comparable coverage for all countries. The sampling designs in the LFS are chosen on a country by country basis. Most of the National Statistical Institutes employ multi-staged stratified random sample design, especially those that do not have central population registers available.

Regardless of the sampling method or which age groups are interviewed, the data records at Eurostat are representative for the population aged 15-74 (16-74 in Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and Iceland).

As the results are based on a sample of population they are subject to the usual types of errors associated with sampling techniques and interviews. Sampling errors, non-sampling errors, measurement errors, processing errors and non-response are calculated for each country and documented in the Quality Report of the European Union Labour Force Survey. Subject to Eurostat's quality screening, figures on employment fulfill the Eurostat requirements concerning reliability.

13.2. Sampling error

The Participating Countries provide Eurostat with an estimate of the relative standard error of seven main characteristics (number of employed, employment rate, number of part-time employed, average number of hours actually worked, number of unemployed, unemployment rate, youth unemployment rate). These relative standard errors can also be expressed as confidence limits, i.e. the range of values that 95% of times would capture the true value in the population. It is also relatively straightforward to provide similar statistics on the aggregate level. The estimates and confidence limits are calculated for each country and documented in the Quality Report of the European Union Labour Force Survey.

13.3. Non-sampling error

a) Coverage errors

Non-existent or inhabited houses or population no longer living in the country are main causes of overcoverage, especially for the countries who use the Census list. Under-coverage problems are caused by the time lag in registering new residents or newly constructed dwellings. Field work problems during the survey are also found on multiple households which are recorded as one household in the framing list or the opposite.

b) Measurement errors

No estimates of measurement errors are available. However, the number of proxy interviews, the average number of interviews per interviewer and statistics on the last updates of the questionnaire, are all related to the error sources listed above.

c) Processing errors

Between data collection and the beginning of statistical analysis for the production of statistics, data must undergo a certain processing: coding, data entry, data editing, imputation, etc.

There are no estimates available on the rate of processing errors in the EU-LFS.

d) Non-response errors

Most of countries calculate non-response on the basis of the household unit, except Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, which compute non-response at the level of individuals.


14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

A common Council regulation ((EC) No 577/98) establishes the timeliness of data transmissions from the National Statistical Institutes to the Member States to Eurostat. This timeliness is 12 weeks after the end of the reference period, and it determines the release of data to users.

14.2. Punctuality

For 2017 throughout all EU-LFS countries data were transmitted to Eurostat within an average of 63 days and published on Eurostat's web site within an average of 77 days.


15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

Comparability across countries is considered as high and it is achieved in the EU-LFS through various regulations ensuring harmonisation of concepts, definitions and methodologies for all EU Member States, EFTA and candidate countries. However, perfect comparability among countries is difficult to achieve, even were it to be by means of a single direct survey, i.e. a survey carried out at the same time, using the same questionnaire and a single method of recording.

Comparability of the statistics between the Participating Countries is ensured for the main characteristics, employment and unemployment where particular definitions and sequence of questions are part of the EU legislation. The degree of comparability of the EU Labour Force Survey results is ensured by:

(a) the recording of the same set of characteristics in each country;

(b) a close correspondence between the EU list of questions and the national questionnaires;

(c) the use of the same definitions for all countries;

(d) the use of common classifications (e.g. NACE for economic activity);

(e) the data being centrally processed by Eurostat.

For other variables, each country has the responsibility to ensure that the national survey provides data that are compatible with the EU definitions and of the same quality. Therefore, in spite of the close coordination between the national statistical institutes and Eurostat, there inevitably remain some differences in the survey from country to country.

For more information on comparability across countries, please consult: EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Data and publications. For a detailed description of the national LFS please consult: The European Union Labour Force Survey: main characteristics of the national surveys.

However, the EU-LFS statistics are overall comparable to those from other developed countries, especially those of the other members of the OECD, because most of the variables are defined in accordance with resolutions of the ILO and other international organisations.

15.2. Comparability - over time

Although improvements in time have brought some time series break the comparability of the main indicators is high.

The first attempt to carry out a labour force survey covering the then European Community dates back to 1960 with the six original Member States (Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). This was regarded largely as an experiment and was not repeated until 1968, when the first of a series of annual surveys took place. This ran for four years but in none of these were all six Member States covered, since Luxembourg did not provide data in 1968 nor the Netherlands between 1969 and 1971. With the enlargement of the European Community in 1973, a series of biennial surveys was initiated. The United Kingdom was the only one of the three new Member States to join the original six in the 1973 survey, but Ireland and Denmark also took part in 1975, 1977, 1979 and 1981. In this last year Greece took part as a new Member State for the first time but Luxembourg was not covered.

In 1982 the Thirteenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians, convened at Geneva by the International Labour Organisation, passed a Resolution concerning statistics of the economically active population, employment, unemployment and underemployment, containing exact definitions of the various categories of the population which labour force surveys were designed to measure. The Member States of the then European Community agreed to apply these recommendations in a new series of Community Labour Force Surveys which would be conducted annually. During the course of this series, from 1983 to 1991, a substantial and coherent collection of labour market data was built up. This comprised microdata (individual observations) from ten Member States from 1983 onwards (with the exception of the Netherlands in 1984 and 1986), and from Spain and Portugal from 1987.

Since 1995 the survey covered fifteen Member States. Austria, Sweden and Finland all had in place well established LFS before their entry into the European Union (embedded in the national Mikrozensus in the case of Austria), but in each of these three cases some adjustments were necessary in order to maintain the level of comparability which had already been achieved between the other Member States. Norway and Iceland have also supplied data since 1995 and Switzerland since 1996.

From 1983 to 1997, the EU-LFS was conducted only in spring (quarter 1 or 2 depending on the country). The data for remaining quarters started to become progressively available from 1998 onwards. Since 1998, the transition to a continuous quarterly survey (where the reference weeks are spread uniformly throughout the year) has been gradually conducted by Member States. Some countries first introduced a continuous annual survey (meaning the reference weeks were uniformly distributed throughout the reference spring quarter) and then switched to a quarterly collection, whereas the others moved directly to a continuous quarterly survey.

In 2003, all countries conducted a quarterly continuous survey except Italy, Cyprus and Austria (starting in 2004) and Germany (starting in 2005). Croatia started with a quarterly continuous survey in 2007 and Switzerland in 2010.

Since 1983, improved comparability between results of successive surveys has been achieved, mainly due to the greater stability of content and the higher frequency of surveys. However, the following factors may somewhat detract from perfect comparability:

(a) the population figures used for the population adjustment are revised at intervals on the basis of new population censuses (however, it is common practice to disseminate basic recalculated series);

(b) the reference period may not remain the same for a given country due to the transition to a quarterly continuous survey;

(c) in order to improve the quality of results, some countries may change the content or order of their questionnaire;

(d) countries may modify their survey designs;

(e) the manner in which certain questions are answered may be influenced by the political or social circumstances at the time of interview.

For more details on the comparability over time (break in series), please consult EU - LFS (Statistics Explained) - Data and Publication >>> Comparability over time

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

a) Coherence with population statistics

Population statistics and EU-LFS demographic statistics are not fully comparable, some conceptual differences must be considered:

  • EU-LFS statistics usually cover the population in private households, while population statistics cover the whole population, including those living in collective households (e.g. conscripts).
  • Sometimes the rules for defining the usual resident population differ in the LFS from the rule in population statistics.
  • Population statistics usually refer to particular dates, e.g. 1st January or mid-year for population level and characteristics. The EU-LFS statistics generally refer to the average quarterly or annual situation.

b) Coherence with employment estimates in National Accounts

LFS and National Accounts are the two main sources of employment data. These sources are not independent; indeed LFS is frequently an input to National Accounts employment estimates. Although the ILO concepts reflect the National Accounts concepts both have their own aims and measurement approaches, which may lead to different results. In addition, other statistics based on business surveys also provide estimates of employment which may differ.

The LFS is a sample survey of individuals and households. However, for this reason, the identification of economic activity lacks the quality when employers rather than employees report (e.g. in business surveys or employment registers).

National Accounts is a conceptual framework (specified in the European System of Accounts - ESA2010) comprising definitions, classifications, variables and presentational arrangements. National Accounts are compiled by comparing and combining all the relevant data sources available in the country. This is a key feature of National Accounts: it allows taking the best from each source, increasing coherence and obtaining a more comprehensive result. For the variable employment, this means more robust estimates and improved consistency with other key national accounts variables like salaries and output. The National Accounts integration is however done at macro level, meaning that the results are produced for the whole economy plus a few standard industry breakdowns. Certain breakdowns like gender and age, which are available for the LFS are not available from National Accounts. The macro-level adjustments and the absence of certain breakdowns do not make it possible to cross National Accounts employment with other variables in the way LFS allows.

The integration of data sources into the National Accounts is done differently in each country. In general, the LFS is the most important single source used for National Accounts employment. Other sources are business surveys, employment registers, social security registers, population census, etc. Some countries use LFS as the only source for National Accounts employment, many others complement the LFS with other sources and a few countries do not use LFS. Whenever LFS is used in National Accounts, some scope alignments are needed prior to any integration. Those scope alignments plus the integration of LFS with other sources (in countries where done) leads National Accounts employment to be different from LFS.

All in all, National Accounts is judged more suitable to measure employment levels, employment growth and industry breakdowns. LFS is more adequate to measure participation in the labour market (i.e. employment rates, activity rates, flows between employment and unemployment, etc.), demographic or social breakdowns (e.g. by age, gender or educational level) and it is more suitable for socio-demographic studies.

Furthermore, key concepts used in National Accounts, such as domestic employment, have no correspondence in the EU-LFS, which uses instead number of persons employed based on residency within the national border (national employment). There are also differences in coverage, where the EU-LFS employment covers the age groups 15 and older in private households only, while the national accounts employment cover all persons regardless of age or residence. In addition, the EU-LFS does not consider conscripts and unpaid trainees as employed whereas these are explicitly or implicitly accounted for in the National Accounts. The reference period for the measurement could also contribute to some differences. The LFS represent one average week in the year with all the weeks of the year measured. When data are derived from administrative sources or establishment surveys the reference period is usually different, the month, the whole year or a single day within the year or month.

When comparing LFS data and National Account statistics, users are also interested in whether or not the two approaches show the same trend, i.e. change from one period to another. A comparison between EU-LFS and national accounts data on employment growth shows that both sources are broadly comparable with relation to the direction of the employment growth. The reasons for the disparities, either in levels or in the direction of the employment growth are not fully known. Some indicative reasons can, however, be mentioned: 

  • National Accounts may use sources different than LFS (or LFS combined with other sources) to estimate employment.
  • National Accounts may introduce adjustments to reach consistency between the employment reported by its sources and other related variables, like salaries or production.
  • The National Accounts approach, by comparing and combining different sources, is also more prone than LFS to identify underreporting or systematic biases.
  • LFS estimates are subject to sampling error, both with regard to levels and changes between periods. Thus, when there are relatively small changes between periods, these could easily be shown numerically differently in the different estimates, just because the changes are within the margin of error.

c) Coherence with employment estimates stemming from business surveys

Business statistics, whether Structural Business Statistics (SBS) or Short-term Business Statistics (STS), are focused on production-related variables like output, turnover or value added, but they also produce some estimates of employment. These estimates may be and frequently are different from LFS results. The main reasons for the differences are:

  • Different scope: business surveys gather information on production units operating in the territory whereas LFS gathers information on people living in the country. Cross-border workers or seasonal workers are correspondingly recorded in different countries.
  • Different coverage: the LFS usually does not collect information for people living in collective households (Business Statistics do not exclude the information). The LFS covers all economic activities and all firm sizes, whereas Business Statistics typically do not gather information on agriculture, government or some service activities. In addition, business registers used to compile Business Statistics may not include small enterprises below a certain threshold or may leave out employment not included in the payroll or in the accounting books such as family workers.
  • Different units: business surveys estimate the number of jobs whereas LFS counts jobholders. Business surveys rarely have access to jobholders’ features like age, gender, etc. for which LFS is the only source.

LFS is more adequate to measure the total employment levels. However the identification of economic activity (industry) is generally more accurate from business surveys than from household surveys, because the information is directly obtained from the production units. As comparisons between business surveys and LFS can only be done at industry level (because some activities are out of business surveys scope, as explained above), weaknesses in both sides undermine comparisons.

15.4. Coherence - internal

EU-LFS estimates for a given reference period have full internal coherence, as they are all based on the same corpus of microdata and they are calculated using the same estimation methods. Arithmetic and accounting identities in the production of LFS datasets are observed.

There is also the issue of coherence between annual and quarterly estimates. Coherence is ensure whenever annual estimates are produced as average of quarterly results. Since 2006 it is possible to collect data for EU-LFS annual variables from a sub-sample spread over the full year. In that case small discrepancies between annual estimates and averaged quarterly estimates may exist. For this reason, consistency of totals for the ILO labour status by sex and broad age groups is required by Regulation.


16. Cost and Burden Top

Not available


17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Revisions of previously released data are not expected, unless major errors are identified in the data delivered or in their processing. Exceptional revisions may happen e.g. after new estimates of population from a population census.

EU-LFS results are revised whenever revised quarterly LFS data become available. Exceptionally, the indicator employment growth has a different revision policy in line with national accounts.

17.2. Data revision - practice

For information on EU-LFS data revisions, please consult EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Data and publication


18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

The EU-LFS is a random sample survey of persons in private households. The sampling units are dwellings, households or individuals depending on the sampling frame. Different schemes are used to sample the units, ranging from the simple random sampling method to complex stratified multi-stage sampling methods of clusters. Most countries use a variant of the two-stage stratified random sampling of household units.

Participation in the survey is compulsory in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Austria, Portugal, Slovakia, Norway, and Turkey. Part of the data can be supplied by equivalent information from alternative sources, including administrative registers, provided the data obtained are of equivalent quality. Typically, the Nordic countries supply the demographic information directly from their population registers.

On average, the achieved quarterly sample in 2017 in all participating countries was 1.720 million individuals of which 1.318 million were in the age group 15–74 years. The achieved sample in the EU-LFS is thus approximately 0.29% of the total population

For more information please consult the corresponding LFS quality report.

18.2. Frequency of data collection

Since the early 2000's, the survey has quarterly periodicity, previously it was an annual survey run in spring. Since the survey became quarterly, it includes both quarterly variables and annual variables (i.e. collected only once a year).

18.3. Data collection

Data is acquired by interviewing the sampled individuals directly. The EU-LFS data collection is carried out through mainly four modes: personal visits, telephone interviews, web interviews and self-administered questionnaires. About half of the participating countries conduct the first interview always or mainly via CAPI while in subsequent waves the interviews are performed by CATI, if a telephone contact is available.

Most countries conduct the interview only with computerized questionnaires. Seven use both computerized and paper questionnaires and three countries rely solely on paper questionnaires.

For more information please consult the corresponding LFS quality report.

18.4. Data validation

Prior to the dissemination of transmitted national data, Eurostat checks the data quality and consistency. Eurostat calculates aggregated LFS results which are then validated by the Member States. Afterwards they are published.

18.5. Data compilation

EU and Euro area aggregates are calculated aggregating estimated population totals from Member States. For the data expressed in absolute values for each quarter (i.e. number of persons/households) no further Eurostat weighting is used. Rates/ratios are subsequently calculated from the data expressed in absolute values (i.e. number of persons/households). 
Monthly unemployment rates are calculated with different methods. Some indicators like 'duration of working life' or 'population in jobless households' have specific estimation methods too, documented in the respective ESMS pages.

18.6. Adjustment

Adjustments of data under the domain 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)' depend on the sub-domain:

  • Data under 'LFS main indicators' may be interpolated and breaks in series corrected to ensure correct behaviour of time series. Some integration with other data sources (National Accounts employment) is also done to ensure coherence. Details are given in the ESMS page for main indicators and employment growth.
  • Data under 'LFS series - detailed annual and quarterly series', 'LFS series - specific topics' and 'LFS - ad-hoc modules' are not adjusted.

Annual results of quarterly variables are produced as simple averages of the quarterly results. Instead annual results of annual variables are derived directly.


19. Comment Top

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Related metadata Top
lfsa_esms - LFS series - detailed annual survey results
lfsi_esms - LFS main indicators
lfsq_esms - LFS series - detailed quarterly survey results (from 1998 onwards)


Annexes Top
EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) webpage (additional metadata information)