Labour force survey: documentation of statistics
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Basic data of the statistics
The Labour Force Survey contains continuously collected data that are used as monthly, quarterly and annual data and data asked from a subsample that are used only as annual data. From 2021 onwards, some annual data are collected every two years. The Labour Force Survey also includes a section with a yearly changing topic. The topic is related to the labour market, such as young people, transition from work to retirement, accidents at work or reconciliation of work and family life. Some topics are repeated regularly every eight years. Every four years the questions are connected to a topical subject to be decided separately.
A description of the data content of the Labour Force Survey is available at: https://www.stat.fi/til/tyti/tyti_2021-03-02_tlu_001_en.html.
At the beginning of 2021, the data content, data collection and estimation method of the Labour Force Survey were revised. The content of the questionnaire was harmonised more closely than before between different EU countries to improve the comparability of the data. The data content also extended when questions were added to the inquiry concerning the flexibility of working hours, the number of self-employed persons' customers and the working hours of secondary jobs. In addition, persons aged 75 to 89 were included in the survey as a new age group. The sample size of this age group is small and therefore data on the age group are not published on the monthly and quarterly levels. The monthly and quarterly Labour Force Survey data still concern the 15 to 74 age group.
The data collection method of the survey was renewed by offering the respondents the possibility to respond not only with telephone and face-to-face interviews but also with a web questionnaire. The new EU legislation, increased non-response and changes to the data collection method were taken into account in the formation of the sample and the calculation method of the results.
The information provided by the respondents is used to draw a picture of the activities of the entire population aged between 15 and 89 on the labour market during one week. In the basic classification of labour market status, the population is divided into the employed, the unemployed and the economically inactive. The active population (labour force) consists of the employed and the unemployed.
The survey is a panel survey in which one person is interviewed five times. The interviews are conducted every three months, apart from the fourth interview, which is conducted six months after the third interview. The first and last interviews are 15 months apart. The data content of the survey varies by survey round. Certain basic pieces of information are inquired in the first round and checks are then made in subsequent rounds to see whether they have remained unchanged. In the last round, that is, the fifth round, the data content is wider, and in addition to the basic survey, the inquiry also includes the household section and a section with a yearly changing topic. The household interview is conducted to ascertain the members who belong to the household of the target person and the activity of the household members aged 15 to 89 on the labour market. In order that the data would describe the whole population, a supplementing sample is added to it of households in which all members are aged 90 or over. Children under the age of 15 and persons aged over 89 are not interviewed in the Labour Force Survey, but certain information is formed for them based on register data to describe their status on the labour market. In addition to interview data, data are obtained from administrative registers available to Statistics Finland from the Register of Completed Education and Degrees and the tax register.
In the survey, age is determined on the basis of real age at the time of the interview. The most aged persons are left out of the survey when they turn 90. Correspondingly hence 14-year-olds can belong to the sample but are included only after they have turned 15.
The sample of the Labour Force Survey is drawn twice a year as a stratified systematic sampling from Statistics Finland’s population database, which is based on the Central Population Register. The NUTS1 division and age data are used in forming the strata. The strata are: Mainland Finland (aged 15 to 74), the Region of Åland (aged 15 to 74) and the 75 to 89 age group. A double sample is drawn of the population of Åland relative to its share of total population. The sampling frame is sorted by domicile code in the strata, i.e. the sample is divided regionally similarly as the population (geographically self-weighting sample). A total of 15,600 persons are drawn to the six-month sample:
• Mainland Finland (aged 15 to 74): 14,800
• Åland (aged 15 to 74): 200
• Aged 75 to 89: 600
The six-month sample is divided evenly into monthly samples. The sample in each month consists of approximately 12,500 persons, which is, on average, every 370th person from the population.
In most European countries, the Labour Force Survey data are collected from a sample of households, which means that all members of a household living at the same address are interviewed at the same time. Besides Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland are the only other countries where the sample is based on individual persons, i.e. only the target persons drawn into the sample are interviewed. However, the EU regulation also requires data concerning households and in Finland this has been solved by exploiting the panel nature of the Labour Force Survey.
Unit of measure
Frequency of dissemination
The released data are final. Only seasonal adjustment slightly alters the latest seasonally adjusted monthly results.
Monthly data are released approximately three weeks from the end of the survey month. Quarterly data are released simultaneously with the last monthly data of each quarter. Quarterly data are statistically more reliable than monthly data and contain more detailed data, such as on employment and labour input by industry and more specific regional data.
The most detailed results are published in annual statistics. Quarterly deliveries of data are made to Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Union, which are used to compile statistics on EU Member States.
The figure of Statistics Finland's Labour Force Survey differs slightly from the almost corresponding NEET rate used by Eurostat. NEET is an abbreviation of "Not in Employment, Education or Training". The figure published by Eurostat is based on data where the population does not include young people performing military or non-military service.
Accuracy, reliability and timeliness
The reliability of the Labour Force Survey figures is affected by measurement errors, non-response due to sampling and random variation. Measurement errors may arise if questions can be understood and interpreted in different ways or if the respondents do not give the requested information. Interviewer training and the testing of questionnaire forms are ways of reducing measurement error.
Non-response can be classified into unit non-response and item non-response or partial non-response. Unit non-response means that target persons cannot be interviewed at all because they refuse to be interviewed or cannot be reached. Weighting coefficients can be used to correct unit non-response. Item non-response refers to question-specific non-response. In such cases an interview has been conducted but data are missing in certain questions because the interview was interrupted or the interviewee refused to respond.
Random variation due to sampling means that figures calculated from different samples differ somewhat from each other. When evaluating roughly the magnitude of random variation due to sampling in different situations, the main principle is that 1) the larger the sample is from which the figures are calculated and 2) the larger the population described by the figures is, the less uncertainty due to sampling there will be in the figures. For instance, quarterly figures are more accurate than monthly figures in describing the same matter, as quarterly data have been collected by interviewing three times the number of persons interviewed for monthly data. Annual figures are the most accurate. The latter principle means that the figures of the employed and the unemployed, that is, the estimates, based on a sample of the same size are the more accurate the larger the subgroup they apply to. As the relevant subgroup becomes smaller, random variation due to sampling increases. Therefore the numbers of the unemployed in different age groups or in different areas are not as reliable as the number of all the unemployed.
The quality of the estimates of the Labour Force Survey is assessed annually and limits are set for the estimates to be published. With the help of the limits, alerts are given on the use of estimates or they are suppressed in the published data. We follow Eurostat's guidelines in releasing quarterly and annual estimates. Estimates of under 3,000 persons are automatically suppressed with a point (.) in the tables and alerts are made on an estimate of under 7,000 persons. The limits concern unrounded figures and percentages calculated on the basis of these figures.
On the monthly level, the limits of the estimates, 7,000 and 20,000 persons, have been defined by Statistics Finland's methods group. Estimates of under 7,000 persons suppressed on the monthly level are based on responses of at most around 10 persons and they are therefore not reliable. Estimates of under 20,000 persons on which alerts are given are based on responses of at most some 30 persons.
Standard error can be used to calculate the margin of error or the confidence interval, at which the sought value of the population is located at a certain probability (often 95% confidence interval), and the relative standard error. Confidence interval describes the width of the range in which the real value of the parameter is relative to the estimate calculated from the sample. When calculating the confidence interval, the desired level of risk is fixed. The five per cent risk level applied in the Labour Force Survey means that if the samples were drawn again, in 95 cases out of one hundred the real value of the parameter would be within the confidence interval and in five cases out of one hundred it would be outside the confidence interval.
The 95 per cent confidence interval used in the Labour Force Survey is the interval within which the real value of the characteristic being investigated lies with 95 per cent probability. For instance, if the estimate for the number of unemployed persons in a certain month is 230,000 and its standard error is 7,700, the 95 per cent confidence interval of the number of the unemployed is 230,000 ± 15,100, i.e. 214,900 to 245,100 persons. The share to be added to the estimate or deducted from it is obtained by multiplying the estimate’s standard error with the 1.96 coefficient of the 95 per cent confidence interval. This share describes uncertainty caused by sampling and is called the estimate’s margin of error.
Relative standard error (variation coefficient) is the percentage share of the standard error of the estimate. Proportioning the standard error to the estimate’s size removes the effect of the scale of the variable. Hence the values of the relative standard error of different variables and the values of the standard error of the same variable in different subgroups are easy to compare with one another.
Examples of the accuracy of monthly estimates for the number of the employed or the unemployed of different sizes:
|Monthly estimate||Monthly estimate's
margins of error
(95% confidence interval)
|Employed||2 400 000||± 27 800||14 200||0.6|
|1 200 000||± 21 000||10 700||0.9|
|600 000||± 15 300||7 800||1.3|
|300 000||± 11 600||5 900||2.0|
|100 000||± 6 700||3 400||3.4|
|50 000||± 4 700||2 400||4.8|
|10 000||± 2 900||1 500||15.9|
|Unemployed||230 000||± 15 100||7 700||3.3|
|120 000||± 11 800||6 000||5.0|
|90 000||± 10 800||5 500||6.1|
|60 000||± 9 000||4 600||7.7|
|30 000||± 6 900||3 500||11.7|
|20 000||± 5 100||2 600||13.0|
|10 000||± 3 700||1 900||19.0|
Labour Force Survey sample and non-response, persons aged 15 to 74 years
|Overcoverage rate, %||1.5||1.4||1.4||1.2||1.2||1.1|
|Sample excluding overcoverage||145093||145434||145390||145356||145545||145978|
|Response rate, %||68.5||66.4||64.7||61.9||58.6||51.5|
|Non-response rate , %||30.0||32.7||34.5||37.3||40.7||47.6|
Errors are corrected and the users are informed about them as quickly as possible. Statistics Finland informs about significant errors to the same extent and through the same channels as in the releasing of the original data.
Notations about corrections and their points of time are added to the corrected releases. If possible, the original, erroneous data are also left visible.
Typographical and other form errors in statistics are corrected as fast and flexibly as possible and no separate notifications are made of them on the web pages.
Information about changes made to statistical databases is posted on the Revisions in the database page. Only the latest data are updated in databases.
Deviations from timetables are also regarded as errors. If the release of statistical data is significantly delayed from the announced point of time, information about the delay is posted on Statistics Finland's home page.
Coherence and comparability
Comparability - geographical
A detailed description of the EU Labour Force Survey is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Labour_market_and_Labour_force_survey_(LFS)_statistics.
The concepts and definitions used in the survey comply with the recommendations of the ILO, the International Labour Organization of the UN, and the regulations of the European Union on official statistics, so the data of the statistics are internationally comparable and cover the whole of Finland.
Comparability - over time
Initially, the inquiry with a somewhat limited data content was conducted as a postal survey. In 1976, the data content was expanded and the methodology modernised. During 1977 to 1993, the survey consisted of a monthly inquiry and supplementary annual interviews conducted over the telephone. The data collection of the monthly inquiry was changed in 1983 from a postal survey to telephone interviews, as a result of which non-response dropped from 30 to 4 per cent.
When Finland joined the European Union, the Labour Force Survey was harmonised with the EU Labour Force Survey. At the beginning in the years 1995 to 1998, the data for the EU Labour Force Survey were collected as a separate interview survey in March to May. The monthly survey was gradually revised to correspond to the EU Labour Force Survey. The contents of the monthly survey were extended, the data collection was changed into computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI) and the concepts and definitions were harmonised to correspond better than before to the EU and ILO guidelines and recommendations. The definition of an unemployed person was revised in May 1998 and the published time series were retrospectively revised to correspond with the new definitions starting from 1989.
In early 1997, the activeness of job seeking was interpreted more broadly than in the EU's and ILO's recommendations when it was a question of job seeking through the employment office. During 1 January to 30 April 1997, active job seeking was accepted for job searches through the employment office during six months. The frequency was then tightened to three months (from 1 May to 30 April 1998). On 1 May 1998, the strict EU and ILO four-week criteria started to be applied to job searches by all methods of job seeking.
In April 1999 the Labour Force Survey’s data content was widened again with the combining of the monthly survey and the EU Labour Force Survey into a single, continuous Labour Force Survey. Since 1999 a harmonised EU ad hoc survey with annually changing topics has been conducted in connection with the Labour Force Survey. From the beginning of 2000, continuous data collection was started, in which all weeks of the year are survey weeks. Previously, the data for each month were collected for one survey week, usually the middle week of the month. This changeover affected data on working days and hours worked, which are not fully comparable with earlier data starting from the beginning of the year 2000. According to a study conducted at Statistics Finland, the effects on the figures describing the number of employed persons were small (Labour force Statistics 2000). Starting from 2003, the data content of the survey was extended with a household module collected from a subsample, which produces data on the structure of households and the activities of all household members relative to the labour market. A new data collection questionnaire was introduced in 2008. In consequence of this the data content of the survey became slightly revised and collection of some of the data was started from a subsample, whose data are only used as annual data. The definitions of some concepts also changed. The revisions were based on the on EU regulations and their aim was to improve the comparability of the Labour Force Surveys of different EU Member States.
At the beginning of 2021, the data content, data collection and estimation method of the Labour Force Survey were revised. The content of the questionnaire was harmonised more closely than before between different EU countries to improve the comparability of the data. The data content also extended when new questions were added to the questionnaire. The most important changes related to questions about working hours and when a person is defined as employed. In future, for example, persons on parental leave who receive earnings-related support are classified as employed regardless of the length of absence.
In addition, persons aged 75 to 89 were included in the survey as a new age group. The sample size of this age group is small and therefore data on the age group are not published on the monthly and quarterly levels. The monthly and quarterly Labour Force Survey data still concern the 15 to 74 age group.
The data collection method of the survey was renewed by offering the respondents the possibility to respond not only with telephone and face-to-face interviews but also with a web questionnaire.
The new EU legislation, increased non-response and changes to the data collection method were taken into account in the formation of the sample and the calculation method of the results. The time series for the years 2009 to 2020 were retrospectively revised to correspond with the new estimation method.
Coherence - cross domain
The results of the Finnish Labour Force Survey published by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Union, differ from those published in Finland in that conscripts are not included in the Eurostat data. In most EU countries conscripts are not included in the target group of the Labour Force Survey, i.e. the population living in private households. This causes differences especially in the results concerning the 15 to 24 age group. In the figures published by Finland persons performing their conscript duty are included in the population outside the labour force. In some cases differences can arise from the fact that Eurostat’s figures include the whole population living in private household whereas in Finland the figures only include those between the ages of 15 and 89.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment also publishes data on unemployed job seekers. The Ministry’s data derive from register-based Employment Service Statistics, which describe the last working day of the month. The definition of unemployed applied in the Employment Service Statistics is based on legislation and administrative orders which make the statistical data internationally incomparable. In the Employment Service Statistics an unemployed person is not expected to seek work as actively as in the Labour Force Survey. There are also differences in the acceptance of students as unemployed. More detailed information about differences between the statistics is available here.
Coherence -national accounts
Source data and data collections
The data of the Labour Force Survey are as a rule asked from the respondent.
If the respondent cannot be interviewed, the interview data are asked from the so-called proxy. A proxy can be the respondent's spouse/cohabiting partner, parent and child aged 15 or over or a sister/brother. They must live in the same household as the respondent.
A continuous survey week is used in the Labour Force Survey data collection. This means that the interviews are divided evenly across all weeks of the year. The questions of the questionnaire of the Labour Force Survey mainly concern a certain survey week. In some of the questions, the last four weeks are used as the reference period. The questions on the questionnaire are used to chart the respondent's activity during the survey week. The respondent's labour market status is determined on the basis of several different questions.
The survey is a panel survey in which one person is interviewed five times. The interviews are conducted every three months, apart from the fourth interview, which is conducted six months after the third interview. The first and last interviews are 15 months apart. The sample for one survey month consists of five rotation groups which have entered the survey at different points of time. The sample changes gradually so that different persons answer the questions during three consecutive months. In consecutive quarters three-fifths of the respondents are the same. In consecutive years the overlap is two-fifths. The data are collected from all weeks of the year.
In most European countries the Labour Force Survey data are collected from a sample of households, which means that all members of a household living at the same address are interviewed at the same time. Besides Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland are the only other countries where the sample is based on individual persons, i.e. only the target persons drawn into the sample are interviewed. However, the EU regulation also requires data concerning households and in Finland this has been solved by exploiting the panel nature of the Labour Force Survey.
The duration of responding both for the web form and on the telephone is three to five minutes, on average. In 2021, around 76,000 persons were interviewed for the Labour Force Survey. The response rate of this survey was 52 per cent, on average.
Frequency of data collection
The weighting progresses through basic weighting to reweighting. The basic weighting is the starting point for reweighting and it takes into account the sampling design of the survey and the stratification used in it, as well as the number of respondents by stratum. The reweighting method uses calibration of weights, where the basic weights are improved by utilising the latest available population data and additional information available from other register sources. Population data are gender, age, region and language. Other additional information is obtained from the Employment Service Statistics of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, Statistics Finland's Register of Completed Education and Degrees, and the Tax Administration's Incomes Register. Calibration weights are formed with CALMAR2 software operating in SAS environment developed in France.
Like all figures collected with a sample survey, the figures of the Labour Force Survey are so called estimates. An estimate is an estimation of an unknown quality of the population derived by applying a mathematical procedure (estimation) to sample observations. For example, the number of the unemployed published in a certain month is a monthly estimate of the number of unemployed persons obtained by such a procedure.
Starting from 2021, a quarterly weight is used in the calculation of quarterly estimates, which is calculated by scaling the monthly weight of each month of the quarter in question to the average population of the quarter and by proportioning it to the number of survey weeks in the month. Annual estimates are averages of quarterly estimates.
Before 2021 quarterly and annual results are averages of monthly results, i.e. they describe the situation on an "average" week during the survey period.
Working days and hours worked are estimated basing on the number of calendar days in the month concerned. Quarterly and annual estimates of working days and hours worked are sums of monthly estimates.
The accuracy of estimates is evaluated on the basis of their standard error. Standard error (the square root of the sample variance) describes how neatly the value of the parameter estimated from the observations is concentrated around the parameter of the population. The magnitude of the standard error is affected by sample design, the number of observations in the relevant population or subgroup, variation due to the distribution of the research variable as well as properties of the mathematical formula.
Missing or erroneous data by industry, occupation and employer sector are classified in the processing stage by using other response and register data. Data on hours worked that remain unknown are also imputed.
The quality of the statistical data to be published is verified by non-response reviews, comparisons with the data of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the results of the corresponding period in the previous year. In addition, Eurostat validates and checks the data received quarterly in detail.
As from June 2007, the trend components of the time series have been calculated with the Tramo/Seats method recommended by Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. Due to the method used, the last data of the trend become slightly revised when the data of the following month are inserted into the time series. When using seasonally adjusted series and trend series it should be noted that in the Tramo/Seats method the latest months are partly based on model-based forecasts, so particular caution must be used in conclusions made based on them. Further information about the trend and limitations in its use can be found in Finnish at: http://tilastokeskus.fi/til/tyti/men.html
Eurostat monthly publishes seasonally adjusted series for EU countries and trend figures for some countries, including Finland (Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland and Austria). The trend figures of Eurostat and Statistics Finland, e.g. employment rates, differ from one another due to different methods.
Documentation on methodology
Principles and outlines
Contact organisation unit
Legal acts and other agreements
Statistics Finland compiles statistics in line with the EU’s regulations applicable to statistics, which steer the statistical agencies of all EU Member States.
Further information: Statistical legislation
Confidentiality - policy
The data protection of data collected for statistical purposes is guaranteed in accordance with the requirements of the Statistics Act (280/2004), the Act on the Openness of Government Activities (621/1999), the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 and the Data Protection Act (1050/2018). The data materials are protected at all stages of processing with the necessary physical and technical solutions. Statistics Finland has compiled detailed directions and instructions for confidential processing of the data. Employees have access only to the data essential for their duties. The premises where unit-level data are processed are not accessible to outsiders. Members of the personnel have signed a pledge of secrecy upon entering the service. Violation of data protection is punishable.
Further information: Data protection | Statistics Finland (stat.fi)
Confidentiality - data treatment
The data protection description is available at: https://www.stat.fi/meta/tietosuojaselosteet/tietosuojaseloste_tyovoimatutkimus_en.html.
Further information: Publication principles for statistics at Statistics Finland
Statistics Finland uses the quarterly Labour Force Survey data in the compiling of national accounts.
Accessibility and clarity
In addition to statistical data published in the StatFin database, a release on the key data is usually published in the web service. If the release contains data concerning several reference periods (e.g. monthly and annual data), a review bringing together these data is published in the web service. Database tables updated at the time of publication are listed both in the release and in the review. In some cases, statistical data can also be published as mere database releases in the StatFin database. No release or review is published in connection with these database releases.
Releases and database tables are published in three languages, in Finnish, Swedish and English. The language versions of releases may have more limited content than in Finnish.
Information about changes in the publication schedules of releases and database tables and about corrections are given as change releases in the web service.
The results of the Labour Force Survey are published in the Labour market series of Official Statistics of Finland. The key monthly and quarterly results are released on predefined days on the Internet on the home page of the Labour Force Survey: http://www.stat.fi/til/tyti/index_en.html. The links on the home page lead to a description of the statistics, concepts and definitions as well as the free of charge tables from the statistical databases (StatFin) of the Labour Force Survey. Data are also available over the Internet from Statistics Finland's chargeable time series database (ASTIKA). Eurostat publishes quarterly and annual Labour Force Survey data on its website.
Data revision - policy
Revisions – i.e. improvements in the accuracy of statistical data already published – are a normal feature of statistical production and result in improved quality of statistics. The principle is that statistical data are based on the best available data and information concerning the statistical phenomenon. On the other hand, the revisions are communicated as transparently as possible in advance. Advance communication ensures that the users can prepare for the data revisions.
The reason why data in statistical releases become revised is often caused by the data becoming supplemented. Then the new, revised statistical figure is based on a wider information basis and describes the phenomenon more accurately than before.
Revisions of statistical data may also be caused by the calculation method used, such as annual benchmarking or updating of weight structures. Changes of base years and used classifications may also cause revisions to data.
Seasonally adjusted data in statistics on economic trends become revised because of the calculation method used. Additional information on a new time series observation is exploited in model-based calculation methods and this is reflected as changes in previous releases. Revisions of the latest figures to be seasonally adjusted are elaborated on in the releases and quality reports of statistics.
A summary table of the revisions that have taken place is also published in connection with key statistics on economic trends and some annual statistics. The table shows how the data for the statistical reference periods have changed between the first and the most recent statistical release.
The results of the survey are used in preparing labour market projections and plans, as support for decision-making, and in the monitoring of the effects of different measures on employment. Key users of the results are ministries, authorities responsible for regional planning, employers’ and employees’ organisations, universities and research institutions, international organisations and the European Union. At Statistics Finland, the data are used in, for instance, calculations of national accounts. The Statistical Office of the European Union, Eurostat, steers the contents of the survey and monitors its quality. Eurostat produces structural indicators and other statistics from the quarterly data that are submitted to it.
Quality management requires comprehensive guidance of activities. The quality management framework of the field of statistics is the European Statistics Code of Practice (CoP). The frameworks complement each other. The quality criteria of Official Statistics of Finland are also compatible with the European Statistics Code of Practice.
Further information: Quality management | Statistics Finland (stat.fi)
Every year Statistics Finland conducts statistical auditing that helps to ensure the quality of statistics. The Labour Force Survey's auditing was carried out in October to November 2011.
Further information: Publication principles for statistics
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