Getting Universal Jobmatch stats

Have you tried to use Universal Jobmatch to access data on job vacancies? If so, you may have been shocked and dismayed by what you found.UJ logo2

Universal Jobmatch (UJ) is intended to be a “new best of breed online service” for jobseekers and employers, intended to transform DWP’s labour market services, automatically matching jobseekers to jobs based on their skills and CV. It is run by Monster, on a £15m contract over four years. It is a potentially very valuable source of data, and the contract specification included requirements for LMI summary tools. UJ data replaced those from the Jobcentre Plus notification system which ceased in November 2012, and was expected by the Department of Work and Pensions to provide a more comprehensive picture and offer improvements in how the data can be accessed and used. Possible UJ analyses include vacancies by industry and occupation; numbers of employers with vacancies; and qualification levels amongst jobseekers and levels required by employers.
UJ reports home page

However, closer examination of UJ raises many concerns, several of which have recently surfaced on the Labour Market Statistics Group on StatsUserNet. The serious deficiencies are very unfortunate at a time when there are increasing concerns about skills mismatches, the quality of jobs and careers advice, and LEPs working with partners on skills strategies and local EU growth programmes.

First, there are issues about how the UJ statistical reports function works – with no guidance and descriptions of the data (metadata) provided. Drop down menus for local authority areas stop part way through the alphabet (tough if you’re after East Devon on one and Kingston upon Thames on another). You can derive top ten rankings, eg, for occupational groups – which generates a bar chart where you need to hover your cursor to see what the bars contain. You have the option to download into Excel, and all this provides is a picture and no data.

monthly trend reportSecondly, UJ does not use conventional classifications, for geography, industry or occupation. The contract spec for UJ expected the use of Standard Industrial and Standard Occupational Classification (SIC & SOC) codes, but UJ currently uses Monster’s own taxonomy. Monster’s US origins are evident in the report on qualifications held by jobseekers where ‘Some High School Coursework’ and ‘High School or equivalent’ are categories. User interfaces are, however, tailored to Britain: when employers post vacancies, they are asked to select job location regions, though these correspond more to ITV broadcasting (Anglia, Tyne-Tees, etc) rather than administrative regions. Analysis of the industry breakdown of vacancies is made problematic by the high proportion which feature under ‘Staffing/Employment Agencies’, rather than the sector concerned. Looking at data for Hertfordshire in March, for instance, showed 55% of all vacancies in this category.

Thirdly, UJ is typically capturing a different profile of vacancies than the previous JCP system, with many more managerial and professional posts and many fewer low skill or no skill vacancies. (See CESI’s submission to the Work and Pension Committee inquiry into the role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system and Tees Valley Unlimited review of vacancy data sources). There are also oddities which seem difficult to explain: the StatsUserNet discussion, for instance, commented on numbers of vacancies for ‘diplomats’ in the Tees Valley and Cumbria.

It’s important to understand how the new system works, combining as it does posts entered by employers, bulk uploads from ‘job warehouse’ sites, and other vacancies ‘scraped’ (by agreement) from the Internet. In this, there is relevant learning to be gained from the USA, where the Department of Labor has supported projects which made use of data using online job postings for real-time LMI. This experience offers a good number of warnings, for instance about the likelihood of duplicated postings, under-representation of jobs in smaller companies and in rural areas, and of variations by sector, locality and level of geographic analysis.

It’s sad that DWP and Monster have not adopted a more open and inviting approach to improving the site – it’s far from co-design principles that get the best out of interactive websites. In the August 2012 DWP Quarterly Statistical Summary, there was an article which explained DWP’s new approach to vacancy statistics, inviting comments and referring to a six-month beta stage.

The latest statement (Hansard, 4 June 2013) is that DWP and Monster have a timetable for prioritising and implementing improvements, but this has not been made public.

Finally, while these are gripes from a labour market analysis perspective, spare a thought for jobseekers. It’s not difficult to find criticisms of how the system works for them – take a look, for instance, at this blog and the comments that follow. It’s very serious: Jobseekers Allowance claimants can be required to look for work using Universal Jobmatch , or risk losing their benefit.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.educe.co.uk/?p=1183

4 comments

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  1. There’s raw data on the FTP site. The same conclusions were drawn here too. The bottom line is the volume and quality of postings has decline with respect to the old (Jobseekers Direct) system. Which is saying something.

  2. Neil Couling, the DWP Work Services Director gave evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee last month which touched on Universal Jobmatch.

    No news other than DWP is currently “talking to Monster” and is clearly sensitive to a lack of vacancy data with which to answer PQs from MPs. No reference to the statement to Parliament in June that there was a timetable for prioritising and implementing improvements!

    Neil Couling commented that UJ is proving to be “a much bigger system than Monster thought that they would be taking on” – but there was no reference to Monster failing to perform against the contract specification on LMI reporting.

    There still seems to be some excitement in DWP about the potential of UJ, with prospects for enhanced services for jobseekers and comparison made with the Flemish employment service, VDAB, who do provide data on skills gaps to providers. Monster advocate data mining in their written evidence, and envisage a far greater role for UJ In informing job seeking behaviour and signposting childcare and travel information, etc.

    • Tom on April 11, 2014 at 09:47
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    On a very basic level – how do you get any stats from UJ at all? I mean, at all? I can’t see any links to the stats on the site. Have they taken them down?

    1. The statistical report function is not currently available. DWP have not responded to any requests for any explanation or information on future plans, eg, via StatsUserNet, which is enormously disappointing though in line with past DWP practice.

      There has been recent media coverage about the future of Universal Jobmatch, for instance, by Channel 4 and The Guardian and the Work and Pensions Committee has just published ministerial correspondence, which confirms DWP’s intention to continue with Universal Jobmatch.

      There has been no further reference to accessing vacancy statistics, however.

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