July 6, 2011

The Jobcentre Plus Mirror Database

Filed under: — Martin Sullivan @ 9:27 am
Closed Jobcentre Plus office

Cockermouth’s former Jobcentre Plus office

ZOIS was famous, in its own little way, for the now defunct Jobcentre Plus Mirror. The UK Government’s Public Employment Service is known by the moniker ‘Jobcentre Plus’ and its online presence is currently known as Universal Jobmatch or Jobsearch Direct, depending upon the variable branding that they use. It’s the third inception of web-interface for this system and while it has its uses, it, like its predecessors, fails to address the traditional needs of looking for a job relatively close to home. It seems to revel in displaying jobs from far, far, away, often with posting dates some considerable time in the past.

The Jobcentre Plus Mirror was written in an indignant local response to the closure of the local Jobcentre Plus office, called the Jobcentre Plus Mirror Database. It aimed to provide vacancy data in a timely and better manner than the official site and by degrees expanded nationally. It depended upon scraping the official site and then providing a more useful web interface; RSS, JSON, e-mail feeds and a bulk download. With the advent of the latest version of this Government site, we’ve been asked to stop. What’s left is a neutered example showing, in part, what it used to look like. It’s based on a sample database of out-of-date vacancy data, about 100,000 records in size.

Local Search

It was our belief that nationally searching a particular Jobcentre office’s vacancies yielded better local results than the official efforts.

You can see how this worked with the Examplar by searching for your local Jobcentre office. From there a cornucopia of out-of-date no-longer live vacancies awaits. Hopefully you’ll get the idea.

Find your local office:

Example: “chester” or “CH1“.

We also produced a generalised search. Try typing this kind of query: something in somewhere. Everything’s optional. Experiment!


Example: “painters or plumbers in wakefield“.

Please send feedback about these searches.

Originally this was work done in a response to the closure of the local Jobcentre Plus office, here in Cockermouth. Curiosity and the odd bit of positive feedback saw it expanded nationally and include the whole of the UK. Vacancy details were scraped off various web-sites and stored as a set of files that could be downloaded from our ftp site. These efforts appeared to have some kind of grudging official approval, for it was used extensively by both the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) internally, and by a number of subcontractors to the DWP, who needed feeds of vacancies for their work, for example with recidivist offenders in the Justice system.

The latest web-site, Universal Jobmatch, specifically bans the acquisition and use of Job Vacancy data by third-parties, and we’ve had this confirmed in an e-mail exchange. Forced to close this resource, we’re left with a Technology Demonstrator, now known as the Jobcentre Plus Examplar so you can see what it looked like in its pomp.

The word ‘Examplar’ is an archaic spelling of ‘Exemplar’, a model presented as an example. At least that’s what my dictionary says.


  1. An anonymous Glaswegian writes via e-mail:

    The JCP mirror search is quite useful but it does have some strange quirks. I have found that a search for jobs in Glasgow produces results that include jobs in Gloucester. Paisley results are also included (which is reasonable as Paisley is next door to Glasgow) but searching for jobs in Paisley does not find Glasgow jobs. Thus for anyone living in or near Paisley it is better to search for jobs in Glasgow. How does the search determine proximity to a given town?

    Comment by Martin Sullivan — October 18, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  2. Thanks for the feedback. Feedback is quite rare and until lassitude set it properly, I was reduced to digging out queries from the logs and re-running them. I’d then have to guess if the results were what the user wanted or not. Sometimes it was quite obvious when it went wrong.

    The system I employ does get its self in a twist, now and again, and it’s rather an artefact of its design. The original antediluvian idea was that searches were confined to a single Jobcentre Office and that the end-user would run multiple searches themselves. Thus you’ld look in Glasgow and a number of sites around there that you were interested in, so Paisley and so forth, and there’s a number of JCP running down the Clyde between those two places. Govern springs to mind, but I’m sure there’s others.

    As you’ve observed, I try to find out which offices you’ld be interested in by doing a search on vacancies posted by the offices for that location and producing a ranked list (http://home.zois.co.uk/jcpoffice.php). The end user can then use to pick that office they’re interested in. If the search term is completely missing then I do a secondary search based on what the term sounded like and make suggests. It picks up spelling mistakes; try this with ‘gligo’ or some similar nonsense and see for yourself.

    The system is used to try and work out what’s nearby too. So something that gets a secondary mention of ‘Glasgow’ will be searched as being close to Glasgow, if you get my drift. It seems to work reasonably well most of the time, but as you’ve observed it can be confused by some mentions of say ‘Glasgow’ some distance away. In your particular case, Gloucester gets in the frame for somebody accidentally posted some Glasgow vacancies there, now expired. The phenomena is more marked if one chooses a term which is quite widespread. ‘Chester’ and ‘Newcastle’ are good examples, and it’s surprising how many ‘Leeds’ there are. There’s also things that involve a vacancy in a particular place, that involves an application to a distant Head Office.

    I’ve tried to mitigate against this by having a cut off, but it’s been about as fine tuned as I can get it, for it has to deal with the obscure place mentioned in one-or-two odd places too. All I can say, is that in my not-so-humble opinion, it does a better job of it than the official search. Indignation at what it considered close to Cockermouth was the reason all of this was started.

    I’ve thought about a proper mapped Geographic search, but you run into the ‘other side of the mountain’ phenomena and that can cause problems too. It’s also quite hard to do, with the available postcode data.

    There, I bet you were glad you asked now.


    Comment by Martin Sullivan — October 18, 2011 @ 11:23 am

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