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Codes and Frequencies

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UNEMP indicates whether or not the respondent was unemployed during the reference period in the original survey. This variable does not differentiate between respondents who were registered as unemployed, who were not working but available for work and actively seeking work, and who self-reported they were unemployed.

When combined with EMPSTAT, this variable should distinguish unemployed people not undertaking any paid work from those with some part-time or unknown hours work time.

Users may also be interested in EMP which reports whether or not the respondent was employed or self-employed (i.e. had a paid job). STUDENT reports whether or not respondent was a student and RETIRED if respondent was retired. EMPSP indicates the employment status of the spouse or partner for those respondents in a couple.

Comparability — Index

United Kingdom
United States


Users should note differences across countries in this variable. In addition to differences in what information is available to construct the variable, there are differences in whether the respondent was able to work any hours and whether unemployment information was collected.

Comparability — Canada [top]

In 2010, this variable includes all those reported that they were looking for a job in the last 7 days, those who reported housework, no hours of regular work, did not state, or gave a don't know response, and also did not state or gave a don't know response for ACT7DAYS were coded as UNEMP=-8.

Comparability — Finland [top]

In 1979, EMP, STUDENT, and RETIRED are mutually exclusive - a person can be coded only as one of the three. The original variable (ptoim) asked respondents to choose from one of the following: "employed", "unemployed", "student", "chronic disability/illness", "pensioner otherwise", "homemaker" or "other". If people's economic activity status is coded as STUDENT or UNEMP they are coded as not having work hours, so there are no working students or unemployed people in this file.

Comparability — Netherlands [top]

In 1975, individuals are only classified as unemployed if they report no hours of paid work.

Comparability — Spain [top]

In 2009, there is very limited information on the status of individuals with minimal engagement in the labor market. The number of unemployed people may be underestimated.

Comparability — United Kingdom [top]

In 1987, respondents and their spouse/partner were asked about current economic activity status and the receipt of unemployment benefits; main respondents were asked a number of additional questions relating to efforts made to find work if not in regular employment. The survey only collected current main economic activity status for other diarists. The peculiarities of this sample (concentrating on limited areas of England not including the South and East) produce an unemployment rate which is more than double the real unemployment rate at that time.

Comparability — United States [top]

In 1965 and 1992-94, we define people as unemployed only if they report no paid work.

In 1998-2001, UNEMP is created from an economic activity status variable for people who not hold a paid job. A limited number of these people report paid work time in their diaries.


  • All persons.


  • Austria: 1992, 2008
  • Bulgaria: 2001
  • Canada: 2005, 2010
  • Finland: 1979, 2009
  • France: 1985, 2009
  • Hungary: 1999, 2009
  • Israel: 1991
  • Italy: 2002, 2008
  • Netherlands: 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000
  • South Africa: 2000, 2010
  • Spain: 2002
  • United Kingdom: 1983, 1987, 1995, 2000, 2005
  • United States: 1985, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2003-2022