LFS series - detailed quarterly survey results (from 1998 onwards) (lfsq)

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

Unit F3: Labour market and lifelong learning

1.5. Contact mail address

2920 Luxembourg LUXEMBOURG

2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 10/03/2016
2.2. Metadata last posted 10/03/2016
2.3. Metadata last update 10/03/2016

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

The section 'LFS series - detailed quarterly survey results' reports detailed quarterly results going beyond the EU-LFS main aggregates, which have a separate data domain and some methodological differences.

This data collection covers all main labour market characteristics, i.e. the total population, activity and activity rates, employment, employment rates, self employed, employees, temporary employment, full-time and part-time employment, population in employment having a second job, working time, total unemployment and inactivity.

General information on the EU-LFS can be found in the ESMS page for 'Employment and unemployment (LFS)', see link in related metada. 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 and ISCED 1997 and ISCED 2011 (from 2014) for the level and field of education. 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-Metadata.

3.3. Coverage - sector

Not applicable

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

The definitions of the presented indicators can be summarised as follows:

Employed persons are persons aged 15 and over who performed work, even for just one hour per week, for pay, profit or family gain during the reference week or were not at work but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent because of, for instance, illness, holidays, industrial dispute, and education or training.

Unemployed persons are persons aged 15-74 who were without work during the reference week, were currently available for work and were either actively seeking work in the past four weeks or had already found a job to start within the next three months.

The economically active population (labour force) comprises employed and unemployed persons.

Duration of unemployment is the duration of the search for employment or the length of the period since leaving least job; whichever period is shorter.

Long-term unemployed persons are persons who have been unemployed for one year or more.

Employment/activity rates represent employed/active persons as a percentage of same age total population.

Part-time employment rates represent persons employed on a part-time basis as a percentage of the same age population.

Unemployment rates represent unemployed persons as a percentage of the active population.

Self-employed persons are the ones who work in their own business, farm or professional practice. A self-employed person is considered to be working if she/he meets one of the following criteria: works for the purpose of earning profit, spends time on the operation of a business or is in the process of setting up his/her business.

Employees are defined as persons who work for a public or private employer and who receive compensation in the form of wages, salaries, payment by results or payment in kind; non-conscript members of the armed forces are also included.

Employees with temporary contracts are those who declare themselves as having a fixed term employment contract or a job which will terminate if certain objective criteria are met, such as completion of an assignment or return of the employee who was temporarily replaced.

Full-time/part-time distinction in the main job is made on the basis of a spontaneous answer given by the respondent in all countries, except for the Netherlands, Iceland and Norway, where part-time is determined on the basis of whether the usual hours worked are fewer than 35, while full-time on the basis of whether the usual hours worked are 35 or more, and in Sweden where this criterion is applied to the self-employed persons as well..

Involuntary part-time employment. Persons working on an involuntary part-time basis are those who declare that they work part-time because they are unable to find full-time work.

Population in employment having a second job refers only to persons with more than one job at the same time. Consequently, persons having changed job during the reference week are not covered.

Saturday and Sunday working. This concept should be interpreted strictly on the basis of formal agreements concluded with the employer. Employees taking office work home and/or occasionally working at the workplace on Saturdays or Sundays are not included. Working on Saturdays (or Sundays), in this context, means having worked two or more Saturdays (or Sundays) during a four-week reference period before the interview.

Shift work. Shift work is a regular work schedule, during which an enterprise is operational or provides services beyond the normal working hours (weekdays 8 am to 6 pm; evening closing hours might be later in the case of a longer noon break), and where different crews of workers succeed each other at the same work site to perform the same operations. Shift work usually involves work in the early morning, at night or at the weekend; the weekly rest days might not coincide with the normal rest days.

Night work. Work done during usual sleeping hours and implying unusual sleeping times. The indicator covers work during the night for at least 50% of the days on which the person worked, during a four-week reference period before the survey interview.

Number of hours actually/usually worked in the main /second job during the reference week
The number of hours actually/usually worked during the reference week includes all hours including extra hours, either paid or unpaid, but excludes the travel time between home and the place of work as well as the main meal breaks (normally taken at midday). Persons who have also worked at home during the reference period are asked to include the number of hours they have worked at home. Apprentices, trainees and other persons in vocational training are asked to exclude the time spent in school or other special training centres.

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

Please note that the EU-LFS covers the resident population, so that the figures reported for a country include residents working abroad and excludes foreign residents working in the country. This can make a sizeable difference in particular in small countries with relatively many cross-border workers, such as Luxembourg. See also the explanations under 17.1b below.

3.7. Reference area

European Union, Euro area, the 28 EU-Member States, three EFTA countries (Iceland, which at the same time is a candidate country, Norway and Switzerland), and two acceding and candidate countries, i.e. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey. 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 are available from 1998 onwards for the quarterly series.

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). 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. Therefore reference quarter corresponds to the calendar quarter. Built in this way, the quarterly sample is spread uniformly over all weeks of the quarter.

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. It's 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.

For more information on the publication guidelines and thresholds, please consult EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Data and publication.

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

A release calendar for the EU-LFS main indicators is in place, foreseeing the release of the main indicators four weeks after the data delivery deadline. In addition Eurostat continually updates the Eurostat online database with new data after final data processing in Eurostat.

The data 2013 Q1 are released as scheduled with the exception of France and European aggregates.

8.2. Release calendar access

Not applicable

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 - 'Dissemination format') 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


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

Not applicable.

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

For more information on the publication, please consult EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Data and publication.

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

Please consult free data on-line in Eurobase or refer to ESTAT-LFS-USER-SUPPORT@ec.europa.eu

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) 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

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. Standards and rules for preparing ad hoc modules were adopted in 2004. At the initiative of Member States, a programme of annual LFS workshops was started in 2005. A thorough revision of the explanatory notes has been carried out from 2005 to 2007 and a monitoring of the implementation of these explanatory notes is ongoing.

A Task Force on the Quality of the EU-LFS is reviewing the quality of the survey along the dimensions of the Eurostat's quality framework. It will issue recommendations that will pave 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, coherence, cross-country comparability and change management. Issues related to quality assessment and, more in general, quality assurance for the LFS were discussed at a Eurostat's Workshop on LFS quality assurance, held in Athens in October 2008. Participants discussed the need to review and reorganise the framework for the quality assessment of the EU-LFS and issues concerning the harmonization of the main quality indicators of the EU-LFS and shared national practices in the field of quality assurance.

11.2. Quality management - assessment

EU-LFS statistics have overall high quality. National LFS surveys 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.

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

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 agendas 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 of 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.

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

Eurostat does not carry out any satisfaction survey targeted at users of labour markets statistics. 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.

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 Iceland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain).

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 (see section 11.1). 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 five main characteristics (number of employed, number of part-time employed, number of unemployed, rate of unemployment, average number of hours actually worked). 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.

  • For the EU-27, the confidence limits at 95% level of significance for the 2nd quarter 2011, are estimated at 217,647 ±519 for the number of employed (× 1000), at 42,611 ±330 for the number of part-time employed (× 1000), at 22,283 ±226 for the number of unemployed (× 1000), at 9.3 ±0.1 for the rate of unemployment (%), and at 37.0 ±(0.1) for the average number of hours actually worked (hrs).

The estimates and confidence limits are calculated for each country and documented in the Quality Report of the European Union Labour Force Survey (see section 11.1).

13.3. Non-sampling error

a) Coverage errors

Nonexistent or inhabited houses or population no longer living in the country are main causes of overcoverge, 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.

Coverage errors (undercoverage, overcoverage, misclassification) are documented for each country in the Quality Report of the European Union Labour Force Survey.

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

Non-response rates are not fully comparable throughout EU. Most of the countries calculate non-response on the basis of the household unit, with the exception of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland which calculate non-response on person basis. The treatment of non-response in the follow up waves is also different between countries. Some Participating Countries do not take previous non-response into account when calculating the non-response in later waves, whereas others do. Thus the former countries may show lower non-response rates on the average than the latter.

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. The timeliness of quarterly data release to users is approximately 14 weeks after the end of reference quarter.

14.2. Punctuality

For 2012 throughout all EU-LFS countries data were transmitted to Eurostat within an average of 66 days.

15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

Comparability across countries is considered as high. Comparability across countries 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.

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.

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

a) Coherence with population statistics

The LFS uses population statistics to gross up sample results, LFS also publishes those data. The most timely population estimates are often available from the EU-LFS statistics. Most of the Participating Countries carried out a Population Census in the 2001 Round, and they often resulted in new LFS weights, new sample frames or new sample designs. By 2004 all of the Participating Countries had revised the LFS weights to reflect new population estimates. Revising previously released LFS data series have, however, not always been implemented. New revisions can be expected relating to the Population Census 2011.

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

- The EU-LFS statistics cover only the population in private households, while

population statistics cover the whole population.

- Sometimes the rules for defining the usual resident population differ in the LFS from the rule in population statistics.

- Population statistics refer to particular dates, such as the population at 1 January or mid-year. The EU-LFS statistics refer generally to average population in a quarter or year.

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 that employers report (e.g. in business surveys or employment registers).

National Accounts is a conceptual framework 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, the main ones being:

  • Different geographical coverage. ESA95 acknowledges two employment concepts: resident persons employed (i.e. the so-called national employment concept) and employment in resident production units irrespective of the place of residence of the employee (i.e. domestic concept). The domestic concept is more frequently used as it allows putting employment in relation to GDP. On its side, LFS gives information on the national concept (i.e. resident workers). Adjustments for cross-border workers are needed to transform one concept into the other.
  • Other coverage issues: LFS excludes persons below 16 years old from the definition of employment. On its side, National Accounts do not exclude individuals from employment because of age. LFS leaves out of scope the following: persons living in institutional households, staff of national embassies working abroad and crews of national fishing boats.
  • Other small borderline differences (in some countries and circumstances): regarding recording of conscripts, unpaid apprentices and trainees, work in agriculture for own-consumption, etc.

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 doesn't 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 (ESA95) data on employment growth until 2005 shows that that both sources are broadly comparable with relation to the direction of the employment growth. If the ESA95 data are not predominantly based on the LFS, the differences are mostly marked in the levels of the growth figures, and in 2004 and 2005 disparities have developed in otherwise comparable series. 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: i) national accounts may use sources different than LFS (or LFS combined with other sources) to estimate employment, ii) national accounts may introduce adjustments to reach consistency between the employment reported by its sources and other related variables, like salaries or production, iii) national accounts approach, by comparing and combining different sources, is also more prone than LFS to identify underreporting or systematic biases. iv) In addition, it can be pointed out that 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 surveys, like 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 and frequently are different from LFS. There are two broad groups of reasons:

  • Different scope and different units: 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. LFS does not cover people living in collective households. Business surveys typically do not gather information on certain economic activities, like agriculture or some services. Business surveys estimate 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.

Different measurement strengths: business surveys are based on a business register that may not include small enterprises below a certain threshold. Update and comprehensive coverage in the register of small production units and self-employed persons might be an issue. As business surveys inquire employment simultaneously to other variables like turnover or profits, they are more exposed to underreporting of employment than household surveys. In addition, employment not included in the payroll or in the accounting books, like trainees or family aids, could be left out. On their side, household surveys like LFS do not suffer from those downsides. 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 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 ensured 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 rotating 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, 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.

The sample size amounts approximately to 1800 thousands of individuals each quarter (2011). The quarterly sampling rates vary between 0.2% and 3.6% in each country.  

Eurostat started collection of LFS micro-data in 1983 with one reference quarter per year (spring). In the period from 1998 to 2005, the survey underwent a transition to a continuous quarterly survey. Since 2010, all participating countries provide quarterly results.

For more information please consult the corresponding LFS quality reports.

18.2. Frequency of data collection

Since 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 are acquired by interviewing the sampled individuals directly. Four modes of data collection exist for the EU-LFS: personal visits, telephone interviews, web interviews and self-administered questionnaires. Half of the participating countries conduct the first wave always or mainly via personal visit, while subsequent waves are interviewed with telephone, if available.

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

For more information please consult the corresponding LFS quality reports.

18.4. Data validation

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

18.5. Data compilation

EU and Euro area aggregates are calculated aggregating totals from Member Sates. For the data expressed in absolute values for each quarter (i.e. number of persons) no weighting is used. Rates/Ratios are subsequently calculated from the data expressed in absolute values (i.e. number of persons).

Monthly unemployment rates are calculated with different methods. Some indicators, like 'average exit age from labour market' or 'population in jobless households' have specific estimation methods too, documented in the respective ESMS pages. 

18.6. Adjustment

No adjustments are made to the EU-LFS data. Please note that Eurostat also publishes LFS adjusted series under the collection 'LFS main indicators'.

19. Comment Top

No notes.

Related metadata Top
employ_esms - Employment and unemployment (Labour Force Survey)

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