The claimant count is seen as a proxy for unemployment. It adds together the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and those claiming Universal Credit (UC) who are required to seek work to qualify for their benefits. It, thus, identifies all the people claiming benefit principally for the reason of being unemployed. The claimant count will typically underestimate true unemployment because there are people who are unemployed and yet cannot or chose not to claim benefits. For instance, students, someone with savings, someone whose partner earns above the threshold, or those who are simple disengaged from the benefit system will not show up in the claimant count despite being unemployed.
While the claimant count is not an exact measure of unemployment it has the advantage of being relatively easy to track from administrative data. It is, thus, ideal for spotting trends in smaller geographical areas. Unemployment is officially measured by the Labour Force Survey. While the Labour Force Survey is huge – around 100,000 respondents per year – it is still a survey. Its accuracy at local areas, such as Leicester, is thus questionable. This is the advantage of the claimant count. Read here for more on the distinction between the claimant count and unemployment.
Claimant Count in East Midlands (2010 – 2021)
Source: Nomis – Claimant Count