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Annual Statistics

Volume 927: debated on Tuesday 8 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment what steps he proposes to take to reduce the time lag in the publication of the annual employment statistics from 18 months and to improve their accuracy.

For Great Britain the results of the 1975 census of employment were published in the July 1976 issue of the Department of Employment Gazette some 13 months after the reference date —early June 1975. The time lag was 12 months for the 1974 census and 11 months for the 1973 census. Local area figures have been provided about six months later.The results of both the 1974 and 1975 censuses were delayed to some extent by problems arising from the reorganisation of local government, first in England and Wales and a year later in Scotland. Some of the new authorities were unable to complete their returns promptly and it proved difficult and in some cases impossible to reconcile the information received from the new authorities with that collected from the former authorities in the previous year.Many months are needed to collect returns from a significant number of employers in both the public and private sector who need several approaches and in some cases visits before satisfactory returns are received. Any reduction in the time lag between census date and publication date depends on our ability to persuade these employers to complete their returns accurately and promptly.An almost full response is essential in order to obtain an accurate measurement of the relatively small changes in employment from one year to the next. Since 1971 this change has usually been less than 1 per cent., hence a virtually complete response has been sought and an actual response rate of 99·9 per cent. obtained.The census procedures are kept under continuous review. Modifications involving greater use of computer processing are currently being made, and when these changes are complete, in about a year's time, it is hoped that the results might be available one or two months earlier.My Department takes care to ensure that the results are as accurate as possible.