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New Estimates of British Unemployment, 1870-1913

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  • Boyer, George
  • Hatton, Timothy J.

Abstract

Existing estimates of the annual unemployment rate from 1870 to 1913 were constructed by the Board of Trade, initially in 1888, and updated thereafter. This is still the series which is widely used and cited. It is based on records of the number unemployed in various trade unions and it has a number of well known flaws. The index is weighted by membership of reporting unions and is heavily skewed towards engineering and the metal trades. Some important sectors are largely omitted. We reconstruct sectoral unemployment rates based on union records and supplement this with (crude) estimates for certain other sectors based on proxies for employment. These are weighted according to labour force shares but the index still excludes agriculture and services. The basic cyclical pattern is preserved but the new series has a higher mean and a lower standard deviation than the Board of Trade index. The wide swings in unemployment during the 1870s are confirmed but the amplitude of fluctuations in the 1880s and 1890s is smaller in the new index than in the old. More tentatively, unemployment increases over time in the new index relative to the old.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2814.

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Date of creation: May 2001
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2814

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Keywords: 1870-1913; Measurement; UK; Unemployment;

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Cited by:
  1. George Chouliarakis, 2003. "Unemployment and Capital Accumulation in Interwar Britain," Economics Discussion Papers 565, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  2. Crafts, Nicholas & Mills, Terence C, 2012. "Rearmament to the Rescue? New Estimates of the Impact of ‘Keynesian’ Policies in 1930s’ Britain," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 103, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  3. Timothy J. Hatton & Mark Thomas, 2010. "Labour markets in the interwar period and economic recovery in the UK and the USA," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 463-485, Autumn.
  4. Rockoff, Hugh & White, Eugene N., 2012. "Monetary Regimes and Policy on a Global Scale: The Oeuvre of Michael D. Bordo," MPRA Paper 49672, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised May 2013.
  5. Bodenhorn, Howard & Guinnane, Timothy W. & Mroz, Thomas A., 2013. "Problems of Sample-Selection Bias in the Historical Heights Literature: A Theoretical and Econometric Analysis," Working Papers 114, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  6. Timothy J. Hatton & Mark Thomas, 2012. "Labour Markets in Recession and Recovery: The UK and the USA in the 1920s and 1930s," CEH Discussion Papers 001, Centre for Economic History, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  7. repec:ese:iserwp:2006-15 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Crafts, Nicholas; Fearon, Peter, 2010. "Lessons from the 1930s' Great Depression," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 23, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  9. Jong, H. de & Woltjer, P., 2009. "A Comparison of Real Output and Productivity for British and American Manufacturing in 1935," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-108, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.

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