Unemployment rate

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

Eurostat, C1, National accounts methodology - Indicators

1.5. Contact mail address

Office address:

Joseph Bech building

5, rue Alphonse Weicker

2721  Luxembourg

Functional mail box: ESTAT-MIP@ec.europa.eu

2. Metadata update Top
2.1. Metadata last certified 20/11/2018
2.2. Metadata last posted 20/11/2018
2.3. Metadata last update 20/11/2018

3. Statistical presentation Top
3.1. Data description

The MIP scoreboard indicators from the Unemployment - LFS adjusted series domain are:

  • Unemployment rate, 3 year average.
  • Long-term unemployment rate, % of active population aged 15-74 - 3 year change in pp.
  • Youth unemployment rate, % of active population aged 15-24 - 3 year change in pp.

The Unemployment - LFS adjusted series (including also Harmonised long-term unemployment) is a collection of monthly, quarterly and annual series based on the quarterly results of the EU Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS), which are, where necessary, adjusted and enriched in various ways, in accordance with the specificities of an indicator. The EU-LFS covers the resident population in private households.

For the MIP purposes are published the source data used for the indicator's calculation: annual and quarterly data on unemployment rate and annual figures on youth and long-term unemployment rate.

3.2. Classification system

Several EU classifications are used in the EU-LFS for the codification of economic activity, occupation, professional status, country and region, degree of urbanisation and education. The respective code lists and some additional information on their development over time can be found in the EU LFS (Statistics Explained) - Methodology page. In particular, detailed information is available for:

Economic activity - NACE: NACE Rev 2 from 2008, Rev 1.1 from 2005 to 2007/2008, Rev 1 from 1992 to 2004 and NACE 1970 from 1983 to 1991

Occupation - ISCO: ISCO-08 from 2011, ISCO 88 (COM) from 1992 to 2010

Country: Country codification used in the LFS in recent years

Region: NUTS II-codes used in the LFS in different years

Level and Field of Education - ISCED: ISCED 2011 from 2014, ISCED 1997 from 1998 to 2013

3.3. Coverage - sector

Not applicable.

3.4. Statistical concepts and definitions

The MIP scoreboard indicators are:

  • the three-year backward moving average of the unemployment rate, i.e. the data for year T is the arithmetic average of data for years T, T-1 and T-2. The calculation formula is: [URt + URt-1 + URt-2]/3. The indicative threshold is 10%.  The indicator monitors high and persistent rates of unemployment and it helps to better understand the potential severity of macroeconomic imbalances. It points towards a potential misallocation of resources and a general lack of adjustment capacity in the economy.
  • the three-year change in percentage points of the long-term unemployment rate. The indicative threshold is 0.5 pp.
  • the three-year change in percentage points of the youth unemployment rate. The indicative threshold is 2.0 pp.

The definitions and other survey characteristics follow the definitions and recommendations of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), they are further specified in Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000. The domain comprises collections of monthly, quarterly and annual averages of unemployed persons and unemployment rates. The relevant definitions are as follows:

Unemployed persons comprise all persons aged 15 to 74 years who (1) were without work during the reference week [i.e. who did not work at least one hour for pay or profit nor were not temporarily absent from such work]; (2) were currently available to start work within the next two weeks [i.e. were available for paid employment or self-employment before the end of the two weeks following the reference week]; and (3) have been actively seeking work in the four weeks preceding the reference week [i.e. had taken specific steps in the four weeks period ending with the reference week to seek paid employment or self-employment] or who have already found a job to start within the next three months.

The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed persons as a percentage of the labour force. The labour force, or in other terms active population, is the total number of persons employed and unemployed.

The long-term unemployment rate is the share of unemployed persons for one year or more in the active population in the labour market. 

The youth unemployment rate is the unemployment rate of persons aged 15 to 24 as a percentage of the labour force of the same age group.

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

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 the EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Methodology.

3.7. Reference area

The MIP scoreboard presents national data for each EU-28 Member State. Data for Cyprus refer only to the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. Data for France include the Overseas departments and Regions (DROM).

3.8. Coverage - Time

The lengths of series vary according to country, details on data availability are available under this link: tipsun10; tipsun20; tipsun30; tipslm70; tipslm80.

3.9. Base period

Not applicable

4. Unit of measure Top

Unemployment rates are expressed in percentage and percentage point change (t, t-3). The MIP headline indicators are the 3-year averages.

5. Reference Period Top

The reference periods are the calendar months, quarters or years, depending on the indicator. They are defined by building up time periods based on the EU-LFS reference week.

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

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, please consult EU-LFS (Statistics Explained) - Main features and legal basis.

The indicator Unemployment rate forms part of the MIP Scoreboard indicators set up under Regulation (EU) No 1176/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council.

6.2. Institutional Mandate - data sharing

Not applicable

7. Confidentiality Top
7.1. Confidentiality - policy

The Regulation 2015/759 of 29 April 2015, amending Regulation (EC) No 223/2009 on European statistics of 11 March 2009 [recital 24 and Article 20(4)], 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 data.

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 all further use.

8. Release policy Top
8.1. Release calendar

Monthly unemployment data and other data in the domain 'LFS main indicators' are bound by a release calendar.

8.2. Release calendar access

A release calendar for MIP scoreboard indicators is not available. Monthly unemployment figures and data belonging to the 'LFS main indicators' domain are published in accordance with the Eurostat release calendar.

8.3. Release policy - user access

The MIP Regulation stipulates that “the Commission shall make the set of indicators and the thresholds in the scoreboard public” (Art. 4, para. 6, Regulation (EU) No 1176/2011 of 16 November 2011 on the prevention and correction of macroeconomic imbalances) and that “the Commission shall update the values for the indicators on the scoreboard at least on an annual basis” (Art. 4, para. 8).

In line with the Community legal framework and the European Statistics Code of Practice, Eurostat disseminates European statistics on Eurostat's website (see §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 MIP related indicators are updated and released in accordance to the dissemination of the underlying statistics.

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

News releases on-line

10.2. Dissemination format - Publications

The MIP Scoreboard indicators are used to identify emerging or persistent macroeconomic imbalances in EU-28 countries. The Scoreboard is part of an annual exercise, where the first step is the compilation of an Alert Mechanism Report (AMR).

10.3. Dissemination format - online database

See data availability for the different tables: tipsun10; tipsun20; tipsun30; tipslm70; tipslm80.

10.4. Dissemination format - microdata access

Not applicable

10.5. Dissemination format - other

Not applicable

10.6. Documentation on methodology

Detailed description of methods and concepts used, as well as for other documents related to the EU-LFS, please consult the Statistics Explained page - EU-LFS Methodology.

10.7. Quality management - documentation

Eurostat's mission is to provide the European Union with a high-quality statistical information service - see Eurostat quality framework.

Moreover, the statistics underlying the Scoreboard indicators are subject to a specific quality assurance framework developed within the MIP context.

11. Quality management Top
11.1. Quality assurance

Quality is assured by the application of concepts according to a common methodology (as described under §10.6) and a thorough validation of the data delivered by Member States.

11.2. Quality management - assessment

Data are collected from reliable sources, ensuring high comparability and applying high standards with regard to a harmonised methodology.

The quality assurance framework for the Macroeconomic imbalance procedure (MIP) follows a three-level structure [link]:

The first level assesses the reliability and comparability of MIP underlying statistics and addresses relevant quality issues; it also enhances the communication on quality assurance of MIP statistics towards the European Parliament and Council, policy makers and the public at large. This level draws on the information gathered in levels two and three (see below).

The second level consists of domain-specific quality reports produced by Eurostat and the ECB summarising the main findings for the euro area or the EU Member States. Reports assess the underlying compilation process and its robustness, describe its legal basis and evaluate whether the statistics are in line with international statistical standards.

The third level consists of national quality reports (self-assessments) produced by the institution compiling the national statistics. Most of these reports are voluntarily published by Members States on the CMFB’s website and their availability depends upon the statistical domain.

12. Relevance Top
12.1. Relevance - User Needs

The indicator ‘unemployment rate’ is one of the headline indicators of the MIP Scoreboard. The MIP Scoreboard is used as an early warning system in the context of macroeconomic surveillance of the EU Member states. The MIP Scoreboard consists of a set of fourteen indicators, covering the major sources of macroeconomic imbalances. The aim of the scoreboard is to trigger in-depth studies, which will do analyses to determine whether potential imbalances identified in the early-warning system are benign or problematic.

12.2. Relevance - User Satisfaction

Not applicable

12.3. Completeness

The lengths of the time series vary from country to country and are related to the date of implementation of EU-LFS rules (national LFS not compliant with EU-LFS rules may have existed previously, e.g. previous to EU accession). However, time series are complete from the moment they start.

The Introduction of the Statistical Annex of each Alert Mechanism Report provides detailed information on data completeness.

13. Accuracy Top
13.1. Accuracy - overall

The overall accuracy is considered as high. Unemployment is arguably the most important variable collected by EU-LFS, the survey design is optimized to measure unemployment.

13.2. Sampling error

Participating countries provide Eurostat with an estimate of the relative standard error of the following characteristics: rate of unemployment and 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. Estimates and confidence limits are calculated for each country and documented in the Quality Report of the EU-LFS (see § 10.6).

13.3. Non-sampling error

Coverage errors
Non-existent or unhabited houses or population no longer living in the country are main causes of overcoverge, especially for countries that use a 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 also occur with multiple households that 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 Labour Force Survey.
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 last updates of the questionnaire, are all related to the error sources listed above.
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.
Non-response errors
Non-response rates are not fully comparable throughout EU. Most countries calculate non-response on the basis of the household unit, with the exception of Denmark, Finland and Sweden which calculate non-response on person basis. The treatment of non-response in the follow up waves is also different across countries. Some countries do not take previous non-response into account when calculating non-response in later waves, whereas others do. Thus the former countries may show lower non-response rates on average than the latter.

14. Timeliness and punctuality Top
14.1. Timeliness

Monthly data on seasonally adjusted unemployment rates are published approximately 31 days after the end of the month. Quarterly series are updated at approximately 120 days after the end of the reference quarter. Annual averages are published along with the fourth quarter data.

14.2. Punctuality

Not available.

15. Coherence and comparability Top
15.1. Comparability - geographical

A common Council regulation ((EC) No 577/98 amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 1372/2007), common variable definition (Commission Regulation (EC) No 430/2005), common explanatory notes (The European Union Labour Force Survey. Methods and definitions - 2002) and common regulation (Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000) regarding the definition of unemployment and the twelve principles of questionnaire construction go a long way to ensure comparability of the statistics between the participating countries.

15.2. Comparability - over time

Since 2006, Commission Regulation (EC) No 430/2005 regulates the codification to be used for data transmission and the use of sub-samples to collect data on structural variables. As for the participating countries, main changes refer either to the mode of data collection or to adaptations of the questionnaire.

The comparability between monthly unemployment rates (or their quarterly and annual averages) and the direct results of the LFS is often questioned. Some of the differences are due to the different nature of the two data sets, others occur just because the transition period preceding the use of the most recent quarterly data is not yet completed:

- in the monthly application, the idea is to keep time series as comparable in time as possible. Breaks in the LFS series due to changes in definitions or in the micro data filtering have been adjusted: in 1991/1992 there was general definition precision; the gradual implementation of a 'new' unemployment definition following Regulation (EC) 1897/2000 leaded to backwards revisions wheras a general improvement in the micro data filtering of LFS data from 2001 onwards caused breaks and backwards adjustments. While original LFS data consist of raw series recorded at each point of time, the same series are adjusted when used as benchmarks for monthly harmonized time series;

- where moving averages of LFS data are used either as temporary or definitive solutions, monthly data do not match the corresponding quarterly LFS data;

- when only LFS data of spring quarters are used, quarterly and annual averages obtained from monthly unemployment data differ from the corresponding LFS data. This situation gradually improves when complete results of the LFS data become available and are applied.

Information on data, breaks in series, flags are provided in the footnotes, published under each data table.

15.3. Coherence - cross domain

Often questions concerning coherence with registered unemployment are raised. Both indicators are not comparable. Indeed, they have different definitions, registration rules are not harmonised internationally and do not correspond to ILO standards. Moreover, other reasons for differences such as different geographical coverage (e.g. regions excluded), different time coverage, etc. can occur.

15.4. Coherence - internal

No issues of internal coherence. See related metadata employ_esms for more details.

16. Cost and Burden Top

Not applicable

17. Data revision Top
17.1. Data revision - policy

Complete time series are re-calculated with every estimation, 12 times a year for monthly data, and 4 times a year for quarterly and annual data. In each one of those releases, previously released data can be revised.

Every month new figures from the public employment offices' administrative registers or from the EU-LFS are added into the process and new estimates are calculated. This might cause a slight revision in past figures due to the re-execution of the seasonal adjustment procedure. Whenever new EU-LFS data become available, a potentially larger revision takes place from the months of that particular quarter onwards. Parameters used in the ARIMA models and for seasonal adjustment are reviewed annually.

In addition, occasional revisions may be caused by methodological changes in the production of monthly data.

17.2. Data revision - practice

Revisions for one or more countries, occur every month. They are announced in monthly LFS news releases.

18. Statistical processing Top
18.1. Source data

Different methods are used for the estimation of monthly unemployment rates and other quarterly or annual data. In all cases the EU-LFS is the main data source.

Data are calculated on a monthly basis. However, there is no legal basis regulating the production and dissemination of monthly unemployment data, as the EU-LFS is a quarterly survey. There are legislative acts of the European Council and Parliament and of the European Commission that govern the EU-LFS and result in the production of quarterly labour force statistics. Eurostat is complementing this quarterly data with a monthly indicator from LFS or from public employment offices' administrative registers delivered by Member States on the basis of a gentlemen's agreement. Results of the complementary calculations yield the harmonized monthly unemployment data. Quarterly and annual averages are calculated from these harmonized time series.

18.2. Frequency of data collection

Monthly, quarterly and annual.

18.3. Data collection

EU-LFS 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 and self-administered questionnaires. Most participaing countries mix the two first modes. The first wave is mainly via a personal visit while in subsequent waves respondents are interviewed by telephone if possible. A large number of countries however conduct interviews only with computerised questionnaires, other using both computerised and paper questionnaires, the remaining relying solely on paper questionnaires. Register based unemployment information are collected from administrative sources. For more information please consult the corresponding national LFS quality reports.

18.4. Data validation

Eurostat checks the quality and consistency of quarterly LFS data transmitted by National Statistical Institutes. Eurostat calculates LFS results which are validated by Member States and published afterwards.

When countries send non-seasonally adjusted monthly data based on the LFS, Eurostat performs a seasonal adjustment. The resulting seasonally adjusted data are then sent back to their countries of origin for validation before dissemination.

18.5. Data compilation

The EU LFS is a quarterly survey. The following method is used in order to produce monthly unemployment rates: for all countries, non-seasonally adjusted quarterly averages of the monthly series are benchmarked to the quarterly LFS figures. However, calculation modes to produce individual months and provisional figures (for the period when LFS data are not yet available) depend on the availability and specific characteristics of the sources generated in each individual Member State. Eurostat aims at harmonizing the calculation process as much as possible. Apart from quarterly figures, some Member States exhibit monthly and/or 3 month moving averages from the LFS as well. Registered unemployment data are used for many Member States as an auxiliary source. The length of the series and specific correlation with unemployment figures measured with quarterly LFS vary from country to country.

More information is available under the Related metadata.

18.6. Adjustment

Annual averages of quarterly data are produced as simple averages of the quarterly results.

For the period when the survey was run annually in Spring or biannually in spring and autumn, Eurostat calculates annual averages as follows: first, annual or biannual results are disaggregated into quarterly results by interpolation of spring data, then annual averages are obtained from those quarterly estimates.

In general, LFS detailed survey results and the LFS adjusted series are consistent from 2005 onwards. For a few countries only, the figures in the two collections diverge after 2005. This is a consequence of the time series break corrections introduced by incorporating the 2011 Census weighting results of the LFS into LFS adjusted series. Where available, LFS series adjusted for breaks provided by NSIs are used in the production for the monthly unemployment series.

Here follows the list of countries for which Eurostat either estimated quarterly figures by interpolation of annual or biannual results or recalculated part of the time series to correct for breaks.
The end of Eurostat's recalculated period for monthly, quarterly and yearly data is reported (flagged with "i" in Eurobase):







2010 Q4




2006 Q4




2005 Q1




2008 Q2




2003 Q4




2006 Q3




2004 Q1




2001 Q3




2006 Q4




2008 Q1


The Netherlands


2002 Q4




2003 Q4




2009 Q4




2003 Q4




2011 Q3




2000 Q4


19. Comment Top

Not available

Related metadata Top
employ_esms - Employment and unemployment (Labour force survey)
une_esms - Unemployment - LFS adjusted series

Annexes Top