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Britain’s Office for National Statistics will no longer report the monthly change in people claiming unemployment benefits as part of its labour market numbers.

The ONS said its “claimant count” measure would be withdrawn as it could provide a “misleading representation of the UK labour market” following changes to the benefits system introduced by the Conservative government. The change will come into effect from March.

In its latest set of labour market stats, the ONS said the claimant count fell by 42,400 at the start of the year – defying forecasts of a slight rise. The ONS has cautioned that the measure was an experimental statistic since July 2015.

The decision comes as the government is in the process of a major overhaul of unemployment benefits. From 2013, the ONS has been basing its claimant count number on people who claim jobseeker’s allowance and the newly rolled out “Universal Credit”.

UC is expected to fully replace the old system in the coming years, with the ONS adding:

This means that once Universal Credit is fully rolled out, the Claimant Count is likely to be higher than it would otherwise be under Jobseeker’s Allowance.

The status of the Claimant Count will be kept under review to see if, once Universal Credit roll-out is complete, it would be possible to reintroduce it to the bulletins and remove its experimental designation.

We continue to encourage users to interpret monthly movements in the Claimant Count with caution.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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