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Unemployment Benefits

Volume 507: debated on Tuesday 16 March 2010

To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office for what reason the time series data produced by the Office for National Statistics on the number of 18 to 24 year olds claiming jobseeker's allowance before April 1997 are unavailable; what data are available on the number of young people who claimed unemployment benefits before that date; and by what mechanisms data on numbers of unemployment benefit claimants before and after April 1997 may be compared. (322105)

The information requested falls within the responsibility of the UK Statistics Authority. I have asked the Authority to reply.

Letter from Stephen Penneck, dated 16 March 2010:

As Director General for the Office for National Statistics, I have been asked to reply to your Parliamentary Question asking for what reason the time series data produced by the Office for National Statistics on the number of 18 to 24 year olds claiming jobseeker's allowance before April 1997 is unavailable; what data are available on the number of young people who claimed unemployment benefits before that date; and by what mechanisms data on numbers of unemployment benefit claimants before and after April 1997 may be compared. (322105)

In October 1996 Unemployment Benefit and unemployment-related Income Support were merged into a single Jobseeker's Allowance. This introduced discontinuities into the Claimant Count series. Adjustments for discontinuities to the series were estimated by sex and by region, however, these adjustments were not further broken down to cover age and duration breakdowns. Consequently age and duration series prior to April 1997 are not consistent with series after that date.

Two of the main factors influencing the decision to not make adjustments for age and duration were the high proportion of claims for which there was no age and duration information available, around 10% of all claims in the early 1990's and the unavailability of similar breakdowns of Northern Ireland data prior to January 1996, due to the use of separate administrative systems.

Information on the number of 18 to 24 year olds claiming unemployment benefits is available prior to 1997, stretching back to 1985. However, this information only covers geographic areas within Great Britain, is subject to discontinuities mentioned above, does not include clerical claims and is not available on a seasonally adjusted basis.

As a result of the adjustments mentioned above, seasonally adjusted Claimant Count series, by sex and by region, prior to April 1997 can be considered comparable with those after that date. However, detailed breakdowns, including those for age groups should only be compared in the context of the discontinuities arising from changes in administrative and benefits systems.

National and local area estimates for many labour market statistics, including employment, unemployment and claimant count are available on the NOMIS website at:

http://www.nomisweb.co.uk