Chief statistician’s update: plans for economy and labour market statistics

Darllenwch y dudalen hon yn Gymraeg

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, detailed questions about the makeup of the economy and labour market in Wales were coming in thick and fast.

How many critical workers are there in Wales? How many of them have children? How many people are employed in industries that would be closed under restrictions? Which protected groups might be disproportionately impacted? This made us look in more detail at the data we have access to and encouraged us to make more effective use of it. Following on from this experience, we’d like your feedback on what you want most from our economic and labour statistics.

What do our users need?

Up until recently, our focus has mainly been on providing high level summary data for Wales across a wide variety of outputs. But we know that in a number of cases, adding greater detail and focused insight on more specific topics is of much greater value. Would that kind of analysis better meet your needs? This blog sets out some suggestions and we’d welcome user feedback using the contact details at the end of this blog.

How we work currently

We routinely publish a large number of statistical releases relating to the economy and labour market in Wales. This includes outputs such as monthly labour market indicators, quarterly estimates of short term output indicators, and annual estimates of gross disposable household income.

We use a wide range of data sources for these outputs, including sample surveys such as the Labour Force Survey, the Annual Population Survey and the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. As the last 18 months have shown, these surveys offer the scope for additional analyses to support evolving user requirements in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, EU exit and more.

As a result of this, we have been reviewing the suite of outputs we currently produce, and are proposing to make some changes that we hope will ensure our statistics better meet user needs.

Changes we’ve already made

We now publish a monthly Labour Market Overview (previously Key Economic Statistics). Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this publication provided an overview of the wider economy. However it now focuses solely on the labour market. This change was made in response to an increased interest in the labour market and a need to understand the impact of the pandemic. Additional data sources such as HMRC’s Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Real Time Information (RTI) are now also included, as well as estimates of how many employments were furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Proposed changes

There are a number of things we’re considering doing in future that we’d like your view on.

Proposal 1: New release on protected characteristics in the labour market

We’ve identified a gap in our statistical outputs around protected characteristics in the labour market. While we publish data on StatsWales by ethnicity and disabled status, these figures aren’t discussed in detail in our existing outputs, which is something we know users want to see.

We have been working on developing more detailed analysis that will explore the trends of different groups in the labour market in Wales and how these compare over time, and with other groups. The first analysis will be published on 16th December. We intend for this to be a starting point for regular and more detailed analysis over time. 

To meet the demand for this analysis, we need to make space to be able to do so. We are proposing to stop some other releases that we think have limited use.

Proposal 2: Regional economic and labour market profiles

We previously published a quarterly compendium release on regional economic and labour market profiles. This release covered various topics relating to the economy and labour market across the economic regions of Wales. We paused this release in the early stages of the pandemic and have since reviewed its use. All of the underlying data included in the Regional Profiles is published on StatsWales. We plan to further develop the regional element of the Welsh Economy in Numbers dashboard and discontinue the regional profiles PDF release as we believe this will better meet users’ needs in a more effective way.

Proposal 3: Discontinue workplace employment

We plan to discontinue our estimates of workplace employment (or total jobs). Other sources exist that provide estimates of jobs for Wales, including the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES), which is ONS’ official source of employee jobs and employment estimates by detailed geography and industry.

Workforce jobs is a quarterly measure of jobs and is the preferred measure of short-term employment change by industry, and data is readily available through NOMIS.

We first produced workplace employment figures in 2002, as the only official estimate of total employment by industry in Wales. This changed in July 2010 when ONS released improved workforce jobs estimates. Since 2015, comparisons over time are now available through BRES.

Proposal 4: Discontinue labour market household release

The data that we publish in our labour market statistics for households is available through other existing outputs, so we also plan to discontinue this release. Workless households by region are published by ONS, and data on dwelling stock by tenure are available in the Welsh Government annual dwelling stock estimates.

Proposal 5: Review of short term output indicators

In a previous blog, we explained that we would be reviewing whether there is a need to continue to publish our Short Term Output Indicators (STOI) release in light of ONS’ quarterly regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the new model-based estimates of regional GVA. Now that both these products are more established, we are continuing this review and would welcome user feedback on whether the quarterly GDP estimates and model-based GVA estimates sufficiently meet user need. 

Proposal 6: 12:30pm releases

We publish a number of releases at 12:30pm following ONS publishing at 9:30am the same morning. This allows us to analyse specific trends for Wales, and make data about Wales more easily accessible to Welsh users.

However, publishing just a few hours after ONS gives very limited time to thoroughly analyse the data and ensure we are telling the right story. We are currently reviewing the set of outputs we publish at 12:30pm, and propose to move these to 9:30am the following day or stop them altogether.

The releases we currently publish at 12:30pm following ONS publishing at 9:30am are:

We would welcome feedback on the user need for these Wales specific releases in addition to the main ONS publications.

Your feedback

Users’ needs are always at the forefront of the decisions we make when it comes to what and when we publish, and feedback we’ve had so far has driven the proposed changes discussed in this blog.

We really want to hear what you think of these ideas so that we can continue to provide the statistics and analysis that matter most to you. Please let us know your thoughts by contacting us at by 17 December. We’ll keep using this blog to let you know how our plans develop.

Stephanie Howarth
Chief Statistician