Youth Unemployment in North Ayrshire
Measuring the rate of youth unemployment in North Ayrshire is not straightforward. There are no
regular, up-to-date estimates of the rate of youth unemployment as defined by the International
Labour Office (ILO). This is due to the way in which unemployment statistics are collected in the UK.
There are two main sources of information on unemployment in the UK. These are the claimant count
and the Labour Force Survey.
The Claimant Count
The claimant count, as its name implies, counts the number of individuals claiming unemployment
benefit, which is currently known as Jobseekers Allowance. Not everyone that is unemployed is
eligible for Jobseekers Allowance. Young people aged 16-17 are generally excluded from receiving
benefits as unemployed people. However there are some circumstances in which they may have
access to Jobseeker’s Allowance, for example if they are a member of a couple with responsibility for
a child, or for those who would otherwise suffer severe hardship. Hence the claimant count does not
provide full coverage of those that are able to work and are seeking work. However, it does provide a
consistent measure of this restricted concept of unemployment over several decades. The claimant
count data is produced at a detailed geographical disaggregation in Scotland.
The Labour Force Survey
The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is a continuous household-based survey. It is based on a five-
quarter rotating panel: this means that randomly selected households are interviewed in five
successive quarters, with the final interview being approximately one year after the first. Around
85,000 households are interviewed each quarter. This number has diminished in the last decade from
over 100,000 interviews per quarter. In the course of each interview, adults are questioned closely
about their labour force status. In particular they are asked whether they were unemployed and
looking for work in a particular reference week. This is the approach accepted by the International
Labour Office to produce internationally comparable unemployment rate statistics. There is no
generally accepted international equivalent of the unemployment rate determined by the claimant
Differences between the two measures
Because the LFS is based on a sample, there is potential error in estimating unemployment rates.
These increase as one subdivides the population into smaller groups: smaller groups imply smaller
samples. Hence the LFS may not be accurate in measuring short term trends in unemployment
among relatively small subsets of the population. This could include those limited within a specific age
range and residing in a specific area (e.g. those aged 16-24 in North Ayrshire).
The claimant count measure is administrative and is not subject to these sampling errors, but does
not capture the internationally accepted definition of unemployment. The claimant count rate is always
less than the LFS unemployment rate since the group eligible for Jobseekers Allowance is a subset of
those seeking work. The ratio between these two rates may vary because of changes in eligibility
criteria and due to sampling error in the Labour Force Survey.
The claimant count and LFS measures of unemployment correlate well over the medium to long term.
But in the short term it is quite possible for them to move in opposite directions. This may arise due to
the sampling errors referred to above or because the number losing eligibility for unemployment
benefit is moving in the opposite direction from the number seeking work.
By looking over the longer term, one can establish a broad indication of how youth unemployment
rates in North Ayrshire relate to those in Scotland as a whole. Figures 1 and 2 attempt to capture
these trends, firstly with the LFS, then with the claimant count.
Figure 1: Unemployment Rates in North Ayrshire and Scotland (Not Seasonally
North Ayrshire Unemployment Rate (16-24) Scottish Unemployment Rate (16-24)
North Ayrshire Unemployment Rate (16-64) Scottish Unemployment Rate (16-64)
Source: Labour Force Survey
Figure 1 shows youth and adult unemployment rates from the Labour Force Survey. These cover the
period from 2004 Q4 to 2011 Q1. These series end in 2011 Q1, which is the most recent public
release of LFS data. Hence they do not capture the most recent behaviour in unemployment rates.
However, the data do suggest that adult rates in North Ayrshire exceeded those in the rest of
Scotland at the beginning of the last decade, closed the gap around 2005 Q4 and 2007 Q4. At the
beginning of the recession, North Ayrshire rates rose faster than the Scottish average and since 2009
North Ayrshire has been around 5% higher than Scotland.
The same pattern was broadly followed by youth unemployment, although at a much higher level.
Youth unemployment in North Ayrshire was higher than in Scotland as a whole at the beginning of the
last decade. At the beginning of the recession in 2008, it was almost 9% above Scotland as a whole.
And at the beginning of 2011, this gap had increased to almost 12%.
Figure 2: Claimant Count Rates for Those Aged 18 to 24
North Ayshire Scotland
Unemployment Rate (%)
Now consider Figure 2, which is based on the claimant count and which covers the period from 2001
Q1 to 2011 Q3. The claimant count data does not suffer from the lags in production associated with
the LFS and hence claimant count data is only one month in arrears. As mentioned earlier, the
claimant count rates are considerably lower than those derived from the LFS. Hence the youth
unemployment rates shown in Figure 2 do not rise above 17%. As mentioned previously, they do not
include those aged 16 and 17 since this group are not generally eligible for Jobseekers Allowance.
There are clearly parallels between the unemployment rates for young people shown in Figure 1 and
derived from the Labour Force Survey, with those shown in Figure 2 derived from the claimant count.
On the claimant count measure, youth unemployment rates in North Ayrshire have been consistently
higher than the Scottish average.
Together these pieces of information from the LFS and the claimant count seem to suggest that youth
unemployment during the early part of the last decade was possibly higher in Scotland, but that the
gap between the UK and Scottish rates narrowed and possibly moved in Scotland's favour at the
beginning of the recession in 2008. However more recent evidence does not suggest a continuation
of that relatively good performance. The evidence does not permit us to distinguish statistically
between current youth unemployment rates using the ILO definition in Scotland and the UK as a
As an addendum, it is worth recalling that the claimant count data can be broken down to a much
more local level. And although they do not by any means reflect the full extent of unemployment, this
geographical breakdown can be used to illustrate the wide variation in youth unemployment rates in
different parts of North Ayrshire. Figure 3 shows youth and adult unemployment rates based on the
claimant count for November 2011 in North Ayrshire’s intermediate geographies. They show a very
The 16-24 age group is used as Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics only provides population estimates for those aged 16-19
and 20-24, it does not provide a single year breakdown so unable to calculate the population aged 18-24.
wide variation in youth rates from just over 3.5% in West Kilbride to almost 22% in Ardrossan Central.
Figure 3 also shows a very close association between adult and youth rates based on the claimant
count. The relationship between the two rates suggests that if the adult rate increases, one would
expect the youth rate to increase.
Figure 3: Youth and Adult Unemployment Rates Based on the Claimant Count,
Claimant Rate (Aged 16-24)
Irvine Castlepark North
Kilbirnie South and Longbar
Irvine Castlepark South Stevenston Ardeer
Stevenston North West Saltcoats North East
Dalry West Irvine Broomlands Stevenston Hayocks
Ardrossan North East
Irvine East Kilwinning West and Blacklan
Dalry East and Rural Irvine Central
Springside and Rural Kilwinning Central and North
Saltcoats North West Kilbirnie North
Irvine Tarryholme Dreghorn Ardrossan North West
Irvine Perceton and Lawthorn Largs Central and Cumbrae
Largs North Kilwinning Whitehirst Park and Woodside Toll and Staneca
Beith East and Rural Irvine Girdle
Arran Fairlie and Rural
Skelmorlie and Rural West Kilbride and Seamill
0.0% 8.0% 16.0%
Claimant Rate (Aged 16-64)
Unfortunately, these rates, as mentioned earlier, significantly underestimate the true extent of youth
unemployment since they are based on the claimant count rather than the ILO definition. The close
association between trends in the claimant count and the LFS discussed above would suggest that
there are areas of North Ayrshire in which the ILO youth unemployment rate is well above 30%.