Officially, the unemployed are people who are registered as able, available and willing to work at the going wage rate in a suitable job but who cannot find work despite an active search for work. There is a long-running debate about the accuracy of the unemployment figures in the UK.
The Claimant Count
The Claimant Count measure of unemployment counts only those people who are eligible to claim the Job Seeker's Allowance. The JSA was introduced in October 1996 replacing unemployment benefit. Claimants who satisfy the criteria receive the JSA for six months before moving onto special employment measures. One problem with the claimant count is that it misses out many people who are interested in finding work and who might have searched for work in the recent period - but they don't meet all of the criteria for claiming and therefore are not included in the monthly unemployment count.
The Labour Force Survey
The Labour Force Survey covers those who have looked for work in the past month and are able to start work in the next two weeks. The claimant count only includes those who are unemployed and claiming benefit. As such it excludes a number of people who are classed as unemployed under the ILO definition - for example women seeking work whose partners are on means tested benefit. On average, the labour force survey measure has exceeded the claimant count total by about 400,000 in recent years.
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