Coronavirus: labour market June update

Published 18/06/2020   |   Last Updated 27/05/2021   |   Reading Time minutes

18 June 2020

Have official statistics started to reflect the impact of coronavirus on the labour market?

Each month the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes estimates of employment and unemployment rates. These estimates are based on information collected by the Labour Force Survey (LFS) for the preceding three-month period. The time lag to these figures means that the latest labour market release published on 16 June 2020 provides information from February 2020 to April 2020. The June LFS figures have yet to start reflecting the impact of coronavirus on the labour market in Wales.

Are there other data we can use to see the impact of coronavirus on the labour market in Wales?

Claimant count figures are published monthly and are more timely. However, people in work can also be eligible for Universal Credit and included in the claimant count. ONS states;

e unemployment rate in Wales

As part of the response to the pandemic, the rules about who can claim Universal Credit have changed, meaning an increased proportion of those claiming may actually still be in some kind of work. Because of these reasons, the change in the claimant count almost certainly ends up overstating any underlying change in unemployment.

ONS has also been working with HMRC to produce estimates of employees being paid through the PAYE system. The PAYE data for April showed a reduction of around half a million people in the UK being paid through this system. These data are not yet available at a Wales level.

Claimant count – seasonally adjusted

ONS publishes an experimental series counting the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance plus those who claim Universal Credit and are required to seek work and be available for work. This replaces the number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance as the headline indicator of the number of people claiming benefits principally for the reason of being unemployed. The latest data for May 2020 show that the Wales claimant count went up from 58,576 in March 2020 to 121,858 in May 2020.

Claimant count for Wales; May 2018 to May 2020

graph showing claimant count figures from May 2018 to May 2020

Source, NOMIS, ONS Claimant Count – seasonally adjusted

Notes: From May 2013 onwards these figures are considered Experimental Statistics. Under Universal Credit a broader span of claimants are required to look for work than under Jobseeker's Allowance. As Universal Credit Full Service is rolled out in particular areas, the number of people recorded as being on the Claimant Count is likely to rise. Rates for regions and countries from 2018 onwards are calculated using the mid-2018 resident population aged 16-64.


Number of Universal Credit claims

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Thérèse Coffey MP responded to a letter from the Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Stephen Crabb MP on 21 May 2020. The letter details the number of individuals and households claiming Universal Credit between 1 March 2020 and 12 May 2020. The number of individual claims for Universal Credit in Wales totalled over 122,000 in this period, peaking at 6,860 on 27 March 2020.

Number of Universal Credit claims in Wales; 1 March 2020 to 12 May 2020

graph showing individual and household Universal Credit claims between 1 March 2020 and 12 May 2020.

Source: UK Parliament, Welsh Affairs Committee, Universal Credit claims up 120,000 in Wales since coronavirus outbreak 22 May 2020

What do the latest Labour Force Survey figures show?

The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a quarterly household survey of around 80,000 adults. The survey asks a range of questions on employment and the labour market. As the data is lagged it has yet to start reflecting the impact of coronavirus on the labour market in Wales.

For February 2020 to April 2020 the unemployment rate for people aged 16+ in Wales was 3.0%, compared to 3.3% in the previous quarter (November 2019 to January 2020). This is an decrease of 4,000 people from the previous quarter down to 47,000.


headline statistics for employment, unemployment and economic inactivity

The unemployment rate in Wales (3.0%) is lower than England (3.9%) and Scotland (4.6%), and higher than Northern Ireland (2.3%).

Percentage of people aged 16+ who are unemployed, UK nations; February 2015 - April 2015 to February 2020 - April 2020.

line graph of unemployment rates for Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Data from the LFS are available showing the unemployment rate by sex and age for 12 months to December 2019. The latest data show unemployment rates decrease with age for both males and females. In all age groups males also have higher unemployment rates than females.

Unemployment rate by age and sex in Wales; 12 months to December 2019

unemployment rates by age and sex

Unemployment data are also available by parliamentary constituency. The interactive map below shows for the 12 months to December 2019 Wrexham had the highest rate (7.0%) and Aberavon the lowest rate (2.1%).




The number of unemployed people in the UK includes people who meet the definition of unemployment specified by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The ILO defines unemployed people as being:

  • without a job, have been actively seeking work in the past four weeks and are available to start work in the next two weeks
  • out of work, have found a job and are waiting to start it in the next two weeks

Employment measures the number of people aged 16 years and over in paid work. The headline measure of employment for the UK is the employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 years.

The headline measure of inactivity for the UK is the rate of those aged from 16 to 64 without a job who have not sought work in the last four weeks and/or are not available to start work in the next two weeks.

Article by Joe Wilkes and Helen Jones, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament  

We’ve published a range of material on the coronavirus pandemic, including a post setting out the help and guidance available for people in Wales and a timeline of Welsh and UK governments’ response.

You can see all our coronavirus-related publications by clicking here. All are updated regularly.