Radical Statistics
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Table 2: Changes affecting the unemployment count 1979-1988



Change in unemployment count

Estimated effect on monthly count

Oct. 1979

Change to fortnightly pay of benefits.


Oct. 1979

Compensating downwards adjustment to published seasonally adjusted totals.


Feb. 1981

First published estimate of register effects of number varied special employment and training measures (coverage increased from 250,000 in 1979 to 668,000 in 1986).

Number varied from
-370,000 to 495,000 (Jan. 1986)

From July to
Oct. 1981

Seasonally adjusted figures for those months reduced to compensate for effects on counts of emergency procedures to deal with Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) industrial action.


July 1981

Unemployed men aged 60 and over drawing Supplementary Benefit (SB) for a year or more given the option of long-term rate in return for not registering for work.

-30,000 by May 1982

July 1982

Taxation of Unemployment Benefit (UB). This may have encouraged single parents to switch to untaxed SB.

No estimate available

Oct. 1982

Changes in definition & compilation of monthly unemployment figures (from register count to claimant count) also, differed benefits paid to school leavers.

from -170,000

to -190,000


Oct. 1982

Monthly publication of number of unemployed people seeking part-time work (less than 30 hours per week) discontinued.

-52,000 in Aug. 1983

June 1983

School-leavers unable to claim unemployment benefits before September, after they leave school.

to -200,000

Oct. 1984

Change in Community Programme (CP) eligibility - only unemployed people eligible.

-29,000 by Jan. 1986

July 1985

Reconciliation of Northern Ireland DHSS records to computer records.


July 1985

Payment of UB in arrears.

No estimate available

March 1986

Introduction of a two-week delay in publication of monthly unemployment count to 'improve accuracy'.


to -90,000
(average -50,000)

June 1986

New method of calculating unemployment rates, using a larger denominator.

-1 to -1.5 %

Oct. 1986

Abolition of and rate of UB

-24,000 after 1 year

Oct. 1986

Voluntary Unemployment Deduction (VUD) to UB extended from 6 to 13 weeks.

-2,000 to -3,000

Oct. 1986

Introduction of tighter availability test.

-95,000 after 1 year

-120,000 after 2 years

April 1988

Expansion of maximum period for VUD.


April 1988

Reduction of definition of part-time work from 30 hours to 24 hours reduced numbers who can claim Income Support (IS).

No estimate

June 1988

Size of denominator used to calculate unemployment percentage increased.


Source: SSAC, 1991, pp. 58-59