Eurostat's Concepts and Definitions Database


Labour Force Survey (LFS)
Term extension
Regional statistics
The labour force survey (LFS) is a quarterly household survey which provides data on persons aged 15 years and over living in private households. Its main emphasis is on employment, unemployment and inactivity. Conscripts, students aged 18 - 24 who live in households composed solely of students of the same age class, persons living in collective households (halls of residence, medical care establishments, religious institutions, collective workers’ accommodation, hostels, etc.) and persons carrying out obligatory military service are not included. Only the employment of the residents in the country is considered. All sectors of the economy are covered.

The concepts and definitions used in the survey are based on those contained in the recommendation of the 13th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, convened in 1982 by the International Labour Organisation (referred to as the "ILO guidelines"). To further improve comparability within the EU, Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000, gives a more precise defi nition of unemployment. This definition remains fully compatible with the International Labour Organisation standards. The economic active population comprises employed and unemployed persons.

The LFS divides the population of working age (15 years and above) into three mutually exclusive and exhaustive groups - persons in employment, unemployed persons and inactive persons - and provides descriptive and explanatory data on each of these categories.

- Employed persons are persons aged 15 years and over (16 and over in Spain, the United Kingdom and Sweden, before 2001; 15–74 years in Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Sweden, Finland; 16–74 in Iceland and Norway) who during the reference week performed work, even for just one hour a week, for pay, profi t or family gain or were not at work but had a job or business from which they were temporarily absent because of, for example, illness, holidays, industrial dispute and education and training.

- Unemployed persons are persons aged 15–74 (in Spain, the United Kingdom, Iceland and Norway: 16–74) who: (i) were without work during the reference week, in other words, neither had a job nor were at work (for one hour or more) in paid employment or self-employment; (ii) were currently available for work, in other words, were available for paid employment or self-employment before the end of the two weeks following the reference week; or (iii) were either actively seeking work in the past four weeks, in other words, had taken specifi c steps in the four-week period ending with the reference week to seek paid employment or selfemployment, or had already found a job to start within the next three months.

- Inactive persons are those who are neither classifi ed as employed nor as unemployed.

Perfect comparability among countries is diffi cult to achieve, even were it to be by means of a single direct survey, that is, a survey carried out at the same time, using the same questionnaire and a single method of recording. Nevertheless, the degree of comparability of the EU labour force survey results is considerably higher than that of any other existing set of statistics on employment or unemployment available for Member States.
Eurostat, "Measuring progress towards a more sustainable Europe. Sustainable development indicators for the European Union. Data 1990-2005", Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 2005
Other link(s)
Commission Regulation (EC) No 1897/2000 on the organisation of a labour force sample survey
ILO (International Labour Organisation) guidelines
ILO (International Labour Organisation) guidelines
Statistics Explained, a distinct section of the official Eurostat website presenting all statistical topics in an easily understandable way, Glossary
Statistical theme(s)
  • Economy and Finance
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