Labour statistics

Employment situation, OECD, first quarter 2020


OECD area employment dipped in first quarter of 2020 but early evidence for second quarter points to a plunge


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16/07/2020 - The OECD area1 employment rate – the share of the working-age population with jobs – fell to 68.6% in the first quarter of 2020, from 68.9% in the previous quarter, the first decrease since early 2013. While OECD employment rates for women and men decreased at the same pace (to 61.3% and 76.1% respectively), the youth (people age 15 to 24) employment rate (down to 41.9%, from 42.3%) was particularly affected.

The number of persons (aged 20-64) who were absent from work due to temporary lay-off in the European Union, where they are counted as employed, increased sharply to 2.3 million in the first quarter of 2020 (from 0.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2019). While in the United States, where they are counted as unemployed, they increased to 1.8 million in March 2020 (from 0.8 million in December 2019).

More recent data for the second quarter of 2020 show a much stronger fall in the employment rate in the United States, by almost 9.0 percentage points, to 62.6%, with the number of persons employed (129 million) at its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 1998. Similarly, in Canada, the employment rate fell to 64.7% in the second quarter (from 73.2% in the first quarter). The US youth employment rate was particularly affected (down by more than 12.0 percentage points, to 38.6%), compared to workers aged 25-54 (down to 71.5% from 80.1%) and 55-64 (down to 57.0% from 63.5%). During the second quarter, the number of persons in temporary lay-off in the United States reached 18.1 million in April, before decreasing to 10.6 million in June.

In OECD countries with monthly labour force surveys, over April and May, the employment rate fell by a (cumulative) 10.3 percentage points in Colombia (to 50.6%) and by 4.7 percentage points in Australia (to 69.8%). The decrease was lower in Japan (down by 1.0 percentage points, to 76.9%) and Korea (down by 0.4 percentage points, to 65.4%).


Persons absent from work due to temporary layoff

(1) Statistical breaks for Japan in Q1-2011 and Q3-2011

Link to underlying data  - Source: Quarterly Labour Market Statistics, OECD

(2) Persons absent from work due to temporary layoff are counted as ‘employed’ in the EU and as ‘unemployed’ in the US. See the note explaining  the divergence in employment and unemployment statistics between the EU and the United States on next page.
(3) Persons aged 20-64 in the EU; persons aged 16-64 in the United States
(4) last month of the quarter


1. Now including Colombia. Colombia became the 37th member country of the OECD on 28 April 2020.





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