The latest QNHS figures have been released. They show the unemployment rate in the first quarter declining from 13.3% in 2009:Q4 to 12.9% in 2010:Q1. This will lead to a downward revision to the monthly Live Register based standardised unemployment rates, which had previously averaged 13.4%.
When the previous QNHS was released, I had expressed concern that the monthly Live Register figures may have started to underestimate true unemployment as expiry of eligibility for benefits saw people still seeking work falling off the Live Register. These figures show that this doesn’t seem to be a set pattern. The Live Register figures would have implied a small increase in the unemployment rate rather than a decrease.
A factor that is perhaps going in the other direction from the issue of benefit eligibility is that the QNHS measure of labour force participation continues to decline. It fell another three tenths in 2010:Q1 to stand at 61.2 percent, down from a peak of 64.6 percent in 2007:Q3. Over that period, male participation has fallen from 74.3 percent to 69.4 percent, while female participation has fallen from 55 percent to 53.2 percent. These declines in participation have been largely concentrated among the under 25s and the over 60s.
If some of these people deemed to be out of the labour force by the QNHS questions are still collecting unemployment benefits, then the Live Register measure will overstate unemployment as measured on the ILO basis.
The composition of unemployment is starting to become more skewed towards the long-term unemployed. In 2010:Q1, there were 112,600 long-term unemployed out of 275,000 unemployed in total. This compares with 49,100 long-term unemployed during the same quarter a year earlier when the total was 222,800.