Labour Force Survey, 1975-

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 1956 LFS
  • Dates of Creation
      1975- [ongoing]
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      Electronic data in the range of hundreds of MBs for each quarter of the main Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Aggregated Local Area Data are usually under 10 MBs per quarter.
      Most datasets are available in a number of formats including SPSS, STATA and ASCII tab-delimited. The data can be converted to other formats such as SAS. Each of the Quarterly Labour Force Surveys consists of 3 separate data files (including household and individual level files) although at the time of writing it is planned to supply future releases as one merged file.Documentation is primarily supplied in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Scope and Content

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey is held under the UK Data Archive generic study number 33324 and the previous annual Labour Force Survey is held under generic study number 33132.

Each quarter interviews are achieved at about 59,000 addresses with about 138,000 respondents.

The questionnaire comprises a 'core' of questions that are included in every survey, together with 'non-core' questions that vary from quarter to quarter.

The questionnaire can be split into two main parts:

  • 1) the first part contains questions on information about household, family structure, basic housing information and demographic details of individuals in the households.
  • 2) the second part contains questions covering economic activity, education, health etc. and also includes a few questions asked on behalf of other Departments (including Department of Social Security and the Home Office).

Until Spring 1997 the questions on health covered mainly problems which affected respondents work. From Spring 1997 onwards, the questions are concerned with all health problems.

Detailed questions on income have been included in each quarter since winter 1992/93.

As well as the main survey, several other datasets, using the LFS data, have also been produced by ONS as detailed below:

  • Quarterly Labour Force Survey : Local Area Data, 1992- (generic study number 33286)These are an aggregated set of data, containing a small number of variables relating primarily to employment status, backdated to the spring of 1992. These data have been produced for Counties/Scottish Councils, Local Authority Districts (LADs), Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs), Local Enterprise Companies (LECs), Government Offices (GOs), and Training, Enterprise and Education Directorate (TEED) regions.
  • Quarterly Labour Force Survey : Unitary Authorities/Local Authorities (generic study number 33309)These datasets, available from December 1993 to May 2001, provide data at a more detailed local level than was previously available and include current administrative areas. ONS are currently reviewing the production of these datasets, and will not be releasing any more until further notice.
  • Labour Force Survey Household Datasets (generic study number 33298)These are available from 1990 onwards. They include a number of new derived variables at household and family unit level, to facilitate the analysis of the economic activity patterns of whole households.
  • Labour Force Survey Longitudinal Datasets (Generic study numbers 33315 and 33316)Available from winter 1992 onwards, the two-quarter datasets link data from two consecutive waves, while the five-quarter datasets link across a whole year and contain data from all five waves. They include a subset of the most commonly used variables from the Quarterly Labour Force Survey.
  • Labour Force Survey SOEC Datasets (Generic study number 33324)The Statistical Office of the European Communities (SOEC), via Eurostat, co-ordinates information from labour force surveys in EU member states. The SOEC datasets are specially compiled for Eurostat, and contain a subset of variables from the main QLFS, and occasionally a special module.

Administrative / Biographical History

The first LFS in the UK was conducted in 1973, under the terms of a Regulation derived from the Treaty of Rome, and the provision of information for the Statistical Office of the European Communities (SOEC) continues to be one of the reasons for carrying out the survey on an annual basis. SOEC co-ordinates information from labour force surveys in the member states in order to assist the EC in such matters as the allocation of the Social Fund. The survey was carried out biennially from 1973 to 1983 and was increasingly used by UK government departments to obtain information which would assist in the framing of social and economic policy. By 1983 it was being used by the Employment Department to obtain information which was not available from other sources or was only available for census years and between 1984 and 1991 the survey was carried out annually.

During 1991 the survey was developed so that in Spring 1992, for the first time, the data were made available quarterly, with a quarterly sample size approximately equivalent to that of the previous annual data, thus becoming the Quarterly Labour Force Survey. During the period from Spring 1992 to Autumn 1994 interviewing was conducted only in the Spring in Northern Ireland, with no quarterly element. However in the Winter of 1994/95 a quarterly Labour Force Survey was introduced to Northern Ireland. Annual LFS datasets for Northern Ireland from 1995 onwards are held separately.

The UK Data Archive has also been supplied with several other LFS-based datasets.


Component studies of data series are held and supplied separately, usually as quarterly or annual datasets.

Access Information

Available to UK Data Archive registered users.

Acquisition Information


Sources for the information in this record include the UK Data Archive catalogue records.

Record created by Karen Dennison, UK Data Archive.

Other Finding Aids

UK Data Archive web pages:

Conditions Governing Use

Users are required to agree to certain conditions of use, including those governing reproduction and those relating to citation, acknowledgement and disclaimer for publications.

Appraisal Information

All datasets available from the UK Data Archive have been reviewed by an Acquisitions Review Committee.


Data will continue to be received for all of the LFS datasets for the foreseeable future except for Quarterly Labour Force Survey : Unitary Authorities/Local Authorities.

Related Material

Related datasets held at the UK Data Archive are listed in the appropriate UK Data Archive online catalogue records and include the Northern Ireland Labour Force Survey, 1995- [ongoing] and Time Series Data : Labour Market Statistics.


References and publications by principal investigators and resulting from secondary analysis are listed in the UK Data Archive online catalogue records.

Geographical Names