Unemployment was examined in a random sample of diabetic clinic attenders and a group of non-diabetic control subjects aged 17-65 years, selected from eight different centres in Great Britain. Data on employment were obtained using a postal questionnaire and medical details were collected from diabetic clinic notes. Out of a 61% response rate, 22% of males and 12% of females with diabetes were unemployed compared with 8 and 5% of the control group (both p less than 0.001). A greater percentage of people with diabetes were economically inactive, that is retired, unable to work, ill or housewives compared with the control group (29 vs 14%, p less than 0.001). Young people with diabetes (16-25 years) had the highest rates of unemployment. A matched pairs analysis confirmed that diabetic men had higher unemployment rates than their controls (14 vs 7%, p less than 0.001). Comparisons were made between unemployment rates for the eight geographical areas and published unemployment statistics; unemployment rates were significantly higher for men with diabetes except at one centre. A stepwise multiple logistic regression analysis indicated that variables which were predictive of unemployment were similar to those expected for people without diabetes. Unemployment is apparently a problem for the person with diabetes, especially for the young.