A labour force survey (LFS) is a household-based sample survey focused on the labour force status of the working age population and related statistics. Survey respondents are members of sampled households. The LFS seeks to provide reliable, coherent information from a socioeconomic perspective about the total working age population and its components, in particular the labour force. Such surveys often allow disaggregations of the labour force by personal characteristics such as sex, age, educational attainment, and in some cases, by migrant status and ethnicity as well as information about the jobs held by employed persons (e.g. occupation and type of contract). The LFS, which is most often conducted at least once a year (in many cases on a quarterly, monthly or even continual basis), constitutes the main data collection instrument for statistics on employment and unemployment worldwide. The concept of employment in household surveys refers to employed persons, including self-employed workers, rather than to jobs, since a person may have several jobs and work in different establishments. Some labour force surveys allow breakdowns of employed persons according to multiple jobholding characteristics.

Labour force surveys are the main source of statistics for monitoring labour markets, labour underutilization including unemployment, and the quality of jobs and working conditions of persons in employment and in unpaid trainee work.

For more information, refer to the Quick Guide on Sources and Uses of Labour Statistics.

« Back to Glossary Index