Labour market transitions - LFS longitudinal data (lfsi_long)

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)

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


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 27/01/2020
2.2. Metadata last posted 27/01/2020
2.3. Metadata last update 27/01/2020

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

Flow statistics are experimental statistics derived from the longitudinal component of the EU-LFS data. They identify the flows between different labour market statuses between consecutive quarters.

Flow statistics are published in the section 'LFS main indicators', which is a collection of the main statistics on the labour market derived from the EU-Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS). However, the flow indicators are calculated with special methods which justify the present page.

Please note that countries may publish nationally slightly different results due to the use of more sophisticated methods.

This page focuses on the particularities of the estimation of flow statistics. Other information on 'LFS main indicators' can be found in the respective ESMS page, see link in section 'related metadata'. General information on the EU-LFS can be found in the ESMS page for 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)'.  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 'LFS main indicators' are produced in accordance with the relevant international classification systems.

For more details on classifications, levels of aggregation and transition rules, please consult EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Methodology.

3.3. Coverage - sector

Not applicable.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

Flow statistics quantifiy the quarter-on-quarter transitions between the labour market states of unemployment, employment and inactivity.

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 precised in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000.

The relevant definitions are as follows:

Unemployed persons are all persons 15 to 74 years of age (16 to 74 years in ES, IT and the UK) who were not employed during the reference week, had actively sought work during the past four weeks and were ready to begin working immediately or within two weeks. Figures show the number of persons unemployed in thousands.

The duration of unemployment is defined as the duration of a search for a job or as the length of the period since the last job was held (if this period is shorter than the duration of search for a job).

Employed persons are all persons  who worked at least one hour for pay or profit during the reference week or were temporarily absent from such work or who found a job to start later, i.e. within a period of at most three months from the end of the reference week.  Figures show the number of persons unemployed in thousands.

Inactive persons are all persons who were neither unemployed nor employed during the reference week. Figures show the number of persons unemployed in thousands

For flow statistics, 9 different transitions between the labour market status of unemployment, employment and inactivity between any two consecutive quarters (referred to as initial and final quarter respectively) are calculated; each transition is published under the heading of the final quarter. Individuals used for the calculation of these transitions were surveyed in two consecutive quarters and 15-74 years old in both these quarters.


Transition Labour market status in initial quarter Labour market status in final quarter Code in database
Employment to employment Employed Employed E_E
Employment to unemployment Employed Unemployed E_U
Employment to inactivity Employed Inactive E_I
Unemployment to employment Unemployed Employed U_E
Unemployment to unemployment Unemployed Unemployed U_U
Unemployment to inactivity Unemployed Inactive U_I
Inactivity to employment Inactive Employed I_E
Inactivity to unemployment Inactive Unemployed I_U
Inactivity to inactivity Inactive Inactive I_I


Transition rates between two labour market states are calculated as the share of a transition in % of the labour market status in the initial quarter, e.g. the transition rate for the flow between unemployment to employment is calculated as:

100*U_E/(U_E+U_U+U_I), which is equivalent to 100*U_E/(Unemployemt of initial quarter).

The relevant codes for transition rates are

PC_UNE Percentage of unemployment in initial quarter To be used for transitions out of unemployment
PC_EMP Percentage of employment in initial quarter To be used for transitions out of employment
PC_INAC Percentage of inactive in initial quarter To be used for transitions out of inactivity


For the tables on breakdowns of specific transitions, the following, additional, principles apply:

  • All tables are published with the label "experimental statistics". The dedicated page on experimental statistics published by Eurostat in general, and for labour market flows in particular, can be found here.
  • All results are estimates performed by Eurostat, derived from a simple regression model.  Information on the methodology used can be found here.
  • Breakdowns published by countries on their national website may differ due to differences in methodology. National statistical institutes are usually better placed to tailor the methodology to the data situation in their county.
  • The data refer to annual averages of quarterly transitions; the pooling of quarterly data is necessary due to the relatively small relevant sample sizes in most countries.
  • Small discrepancies for the same breakdown found in different tables may arise, depending on the covariaties used in the regression as well as due to rounding of results.
  • All results refer to transition probabilities, and are rounded to full percentage points estimates of levels are not available. Estimates which are statistically insignificantly different from zero (at 99% probability) are not shown.


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

3.5. Statistical unit


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

3.7. Reference area

European Union, Euro area, EU Member States, Candidate Countries, EFTA Countries (except for Liechtenstein). Data for Cyprus refer only to the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. Data for France do include the overseas departments (DOM) from 2014 on.

3.8. Coverage - Time

Available data ranges of EU-LFS data differ by Member State. For reasons of comparison over time, the calculation of flow statistics are at this point restricted to begin in 2010Q1.

3.9. Base period

Not applicable. 

4. Unit of measure Top

Flow statistics are available as transition levels, indicating the number of persons (in 1000s) changing or remaining in a labour status between two quarters. Transition rates are expressed as share of initial labour market status.

Breakdowns of flow statistics are only available as transition probabilities (in %)

5. Reference Period Top

The reference periods are the calendar quarters and calendar years. They are defined  based on the EU-LFS reference week. For details please refer to the ESMS page on 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)' (see link below in section 'related metadata').

Breakdowns of labour market flows refer to annual averages of quarterly transitions.

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

The EU-LFS 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 does 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 all further use.

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

Flow statistics are released several weeks after the preannounced release of quarterly LFS data under the "Main Indicator" heading. There is no fixed release date.

8.2. Release calendar access

Not relevant, since there is no fixed release date

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.

In line with this protocol and on a strictly regulated basis, data on unemployment are sent for information to the European Central Bank (ECB) and to the European Commission Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (DG EMPL) under embargo the evening before official release of data.

9. Frequency of dissemination Top

Quarterly for quarterly flows data.

Annual for annual flows data.

Annual for breakdowns of labour market flows.

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

No regular news release.

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

Dedicated page in "Statistics Explained", Eurostat's wiki pages.

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

Please consult free data on-line.

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

Micro-data are not applicable to 'LFS main indicators' results, but EU-LFS anonymised microdata are available for research purposes. Please refer to access to microdata. Please note that the microdata does not allow the linking of microdata over time, so the flow statistics cannot be reproduced.

10.5. Dissemination format - other


10.6. Documentation on methodology

Please refer to the ESMS page on 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)' (see link below in section 'related metadata').

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) webpage.

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

Please refer to the ESMS page on 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)' (see link below in section 'related metadata') concerning the quality assurance of the underlying LFS microdata. Flow statistics are calculated based on microdata according to an agreed methodology. Before the first publication, flow statistics result had been checked by all affected countries. Each quarter, new or revised data is checked by Eurostat for internal consistency before publication.

11.2. Quality management - assessment

Please refer to the ESMS page on 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)' (see link below in section 'related metadata').

12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

Relevance is high. Unemployment  and employment statistics are among the most important socio-economic indicators. Flow statistics complement the already existing indicators and give valuable insights into labour market dynamics.

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

This is a new data collection, so there is no information on user satisfaction yet.

12.3. Completeness

Quarterly flow statistics cannot be calculated for Germany. Flow statistics cannot be calculated for Belgium before 2017,  and Luxembourg before 2015, due to the missing overlap in the quarterly samples. Until German data are avalaible, no EU and EA aggregates are produced. EU and EA aggregates are available for annual flows statistics. In cases where country data is missing, Eurostat estimates (not published) are used for the calculation of these aggregates.

13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall

There are no measures of accuracy calculated at this point in time for flow statistics.  However, the overall accuracy is considered as high, given the fact that the LFS was not set up as a panel.  Unemployment is arguably the most important variable collected by EU-LFS, the survey design is optimized to measure unemployment.

For accuracy concerning the LFS as a whole, please refer to the ESMS page on 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)' (see link below in section 'related metadata').

13.2. Sampling error

Please refer to the ESMS page on 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)' (see link below in section 'related metadata').

13.3. Non-sampling error

Please refer to the ESMS page on 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)' (see link below in section 'related metadata').

14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

The quarterly series are updated at approximately 150 days after the end of the reference quarter.

The annual series are update approximately 150 days after the end of the reference year.

14.2. Punctuality

Not available

15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

No quarterly flows data is available for Germany  due to the missing overlap of the quarterly samples. No EU and EA aggregates are published until German data is available. Rotational sampling designs were introduced in Luxembourg in 2015 and in Belgium in 2017.

The data published for Spain,  the Netherlands and Portugal (annual only) are produced by the respective national institutes  and sent to Eurostat. Small differences in the methodology for the derivation of longitudinal weights used are described in section 18.5.

A common Council regulation ((EC) No 577/98), common variable definition (Commission Regulation (EC) No 430/2005), common explanatory notes (The European Union Labour Force Survey. Methods and definitions - 2001) and common regulation (Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000) regarding the definition of unemployment and the twelve principles of questionnaire construction ensure comparability of the statistics between the Participating Countries, particularly for the main indicators, employment and unemployment.

15.2. Comparability - over time

Concerning the LFS directly, from 2006 onwards, Commission Regulation (EC) No 430/2005 of 15 March 2005 regulates the codification to be used for data transmission and the use of a sub-sample for the collection of data on structural variables (OJ No L 71/36). As for the Participating Countries, main changes referred either to the mode of data collection or to adaptations of the questionnaire.

Flow statistics are published beginning with the transitions from Q1 to Q2 2010 for quarterly data, and with the transition from 2010 to 2011 for annual data. Breaks in series are indicated in the data.

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

There has been no investigation into the cross domain coherence of LFS flows yet.

15.4. Coherence - internal

LFS flow statistics are based on a sub-sample of individuals which are surveyed in both, the initial and the final period for which the flows are calculated. This sub-sample is reweighted to be coherent with the levels of employment, unemployment and inactive individuals in the target period as well as employment and unemployment in the initial period. Small divergences may occur in the levels of inactive individuals in the initial period.

16. Cost and Burden Top

Not available

17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Whenever revisions to the LFS micro-data become available, they are incorporated into the flow estimates. If improvments in the underlying methodology are made, revised data will be published with an explanation on the changes.

17.2. Data revision - practice

If there is revision to flow data due to revisions to the underlying LFS micro-data, it is published along with the regular quarterly data release. There are no revisions between data releases. Major revisions may occur in the future due to changes in the methodology.

18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

For additional information please refer to the technical annex below or consult the EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) webpage.

18.2. Frequency of data collection


18.3. Data collection

EU-LFS data are acquired by interviewing the sampled individuals directly. Three modes of data collection exist for the EU-LFS: personal visits, telephone interviews and self-administered questionnaires. Half of the Participating Countries mix the two first so that the first wave is always or mainly via personal visit while subsequent waves are interviewed with telephone if available. Twenty-one of the countries conduct the interview only with computerised questionnaires. Other two use both computerised and paper questionnaires. The rest rely solely on paper questionnaires.

For more information please consult the corresponding LFS quality reports.

18.4. Data validation

Quarterly LFS data: Eurostat checks the quality and consistency of data transmitted by National Statistical Institutes. Eurostat calculates LFS results and they are then validated by the Member States. Based on these data, Eurostat calculates the available flow statistics.

18.5. Data compilation

Eurostat calculates initial quarter-on-quarter flow estimates as 3x3 ILO labour status transition matrices, for the age group 15-74, by sex and for individual countries.

The following general criteria are applied for quarter-on-quarter flow calculations:

  • All computations are restricted to persons who are aged 15-74 in the target period;
  • For all quarters from the first quarter of 2010 to the current quarter, the quarterly longitudinal flow samples are defined as the overlapping sample of two consecutive quarters.
  • For all years from the first year 2010, the annual longitudinal flow samples are defined as the annual average of the overlapping sample of the same quarters of two consecutive years.

The methodology below describes the production of quarter-on-quarter flows. Year-on-year flows are produced in the same way.

In anticipation of possible future consistency requirements for flow statistics and planned more detailed flow estimates, calculation of ILO labour status transitions starts by sex and age group, using 10-year age groups 15-24, 25-34…65-74. For each subgroup and each of the 9 possible quarter-on-quarter transitions between the 3 labour statuses, the respective final quarter sum of coefficients (weights) in the flow sample is computed. Final quarter weights are used as they lead to the correct International Labour Organisation (ILO) labour status distribution in the most recent quarter. As those figures are based on a subset of the final quarter sample only, the resulting grossed-up weights obviously do not provide correct estimates for the underlying population subgroups. They have hence to be calibrated further to known marginal totals for the subgroups in question. In order to do this, the final quarter distribution of the 3 labour statuses in the respective subgroups is taken, and correction factors calculated.

The flow sample weights are then adapted accordingly to match the distribution in the final quarter, namely for each age group x sex x labour status in the final quarter combination. The steps described in the following could be applied to each intermediate matrix produced above. However, in order to avoid empty or poorly populated cells as far as possible and to get more robust results, calculation of the headline indicators for the age group 15-74 starts with a further aggregation of the previous results about age, i.e. all intermediate transition matrix results calculated so far for an individual country are combined into one single matrix, by sex. As for the final quarter, marginal ILO labour status distributions for the initial quarter are available as well. The next step tries to achieve consistency of the transition matrix with both marginal distributions. The procedure applied requires a common population in both quarters – for that, the probably least critical value (inactive population initial quarter) is corrected in a way that the total population in both quarters matches that of the final quarter. Afterwards an iterative raking procedure is applied. It starts with the matrix consistent with the final quarter distribution and tries to find matrix values which are as close as possible to the start matrix while ensuring also consistency to the (partly corrected) initial quarter distribution. The iterative raking stops once the deviation of the row and column sums from the marginal distributions is less than 1,005. The results of the iterative raking are the flow estimates published. They are published separately for males and females.

Estimates for Spain are sent to Eurostat by INE Spain, and make use of additional variables in the weighting (five year age groups, nationality, region). They are restricted to persons 16 to 74 years old in the target quarter due to the legal working age in Spain. Specificites for annual flows are given in the document annexed.

Estimates for the Netherlands are sent to Eurostat by the CBS. The methodology is explained in detail in the document annexed.

Estimates for Portugal (annual flows only) are sent to Eurostat by INE Portugal. The methodology is explained in detail in the document annexed.

Methodology annual flows Portugal
Methodology annual flows Netherlands
Methodology annual flows Spain
18.6. Adjustment

For quarterly flows: if data is missing (due e.g. to breaks in the series), estimates based on the development in the last year as well as the seasonal component are made for aggregate estimates of all MS which are used for publication in e.g. Statistics Explained. No EU aggregate is published in the database due to the missing German data. Seasonally ajdusted flow series are adjusted separatly for males and females on the country level and aggregated. There is no additional benchmarking to seasonally adjusted levels of unemployment, employment and inactivity done.


For annual flows: if data is missing (due e.g. to breaks in the series), estimates are interpolated based on the preceding and following year's values and used for the EU and EA aggregates.


None of the estimates is published.

19. Comment Top

not applicable

Related metadata Top
employ_esms - Employment and unemployment (Labour force survey)
lfsi_esms - LFS main indicators

Annexes Top