Labour market statistics at regional level

Data extracted in April 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: September 2018.

Maps can be explored interactively using Eurostat’s Statistical Atlas (see user manual).

Figure 1: Labour force composition, persons aged 15–74, EU-28, 2006–2016
Source: Eurostat (lfsa_pganws), (lfsa_eftpt) and (lfsa_igar)
Map 1: Employment rate, persons aged 20–64, by NUTS 2 regions, 2016
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emprt)
Map 2: Change in the employment rate, persons aged 20–64, by NUTS 2 regions, 2006–2016
(percentage points, difference between 2016 and 2006)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emprt)
Figure 2: Gender balance for the employment rate of persons aged 20–64, by NUTS 2 regions, 2016
(ratio of female to male employment)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emprt)
Map 3: Employment rate, persons aged 55–64, by NUTS 2 regions, 2016
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emprt)
Figure 3: Share of self-employment in total employment, persons aged 20–64, by NUTS 2 regions, 2016
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emp) and (lfst_r_lfe2estat)
Map 4: Average number of usual weekly hours of work in main job, persons aged 20–64, by NUTS 2 regions, 2016
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2ehour)
Figure 4: Mean annual earnings, by NUTS 1 regions, 2014
Source: Eurostat (earn_ses14_rann) and (earn_ses14_26)
Map 5: Unemployment rate, persons aged 15–74, by NUTS 2 regions, 2016
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfu3rt)
Figure 5: Dispersion of regional unemployment rates, 2006–2016
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lmdur)
Figure 6: Share of long-term unemployment in total unemployment, persons aged 15–74, by NUTS 2 regions, 2016
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfu2ltu)

This article forms part of Eurostat’s annual flagship publication, the Eurostat regional yearbook. It analyses European Union (EU) labour markets, providing an overview of regional employment (looking also at hours worked and earnings) and unemployment. Eurostat compiles and publishes labour market statistics for EU regions, the individual EU Member States, as well as the EU-28 aggregate; in addition, data are also available for a subset of EFTA and candidate countries. These regional statistics are presented for NUTS level 2 regions.

Main statistical findings

  • The lowest employment rates in 2016 were recorded in EU Member States that were strongly affected by the sovereign debt crisis, in particular, Greece, Spain and Italy.
  • Male employment rates in 2016 were higher than female rates in all regions of the EU except for Corse and Övre Norrland.
  • Employment rates for older workers were high in 2016 in all Swedish regions while they were lowest in the Greek capital city region.
  • All Greek regions except for the capital city region recorded very high shares of self-employed persons in 2016.
  • The long-term unemployed accounted for a relatively low share of total unemployment in 2016 in the Nordic Member States and in the United Kingdom.

Labour force composition

The economically active population in the EU-28 — also called the labour force — was composed of 245.2 million persons in 2016. The labour force includes people in work (in other words employed persons) and people actively seeking and available for work (in other words unemployed persons). An infographic on Statistics Explained illustrates various components of the labour force.

Nearly all (99.8 %) of the people in the EU-28’s labour force in 2016 were in the age range 15–74. By focusing an analysis of the importance of the labour force within the whole population to this age range, it only reduces very slightly the coverage of the labour force, but at the same time leaves out of the analysis a large part of the relatively large (and growing) number of people who are retired and therefore no longer economically active. Figure 1 provides such an analysis, showing the development over time in the working status of the population, focusing on people aged 15–74. In 2016, the EU-28 population was composed of 379.9 million people in this age range, up from 376.2 million in 2006. As well as growing by 1.0 %, the activity structure of the population changed between these years. In this context, it should be noted that the time span covered — 2006 to 2016 — includes the global financial and economic crisis.

Overall, between 2006 and 2016 the EU-28’s labour force (aged 15–74) grew by 4.1 % while the number of economically inactive people fell by 4.2 %. The activity rate (for persons aged 15–74), in other words the ratio of the labour force to the population, increased from 62.5 % in 2006, to 64.4 % in 2016. As a consequence, the share of economically inactive people in the population fell to 35.6 %. While this increase in the activity rate was relatively smooth, changes in the composition of the labour force were less smooth, with the crisis having a major impact in early years; this can be seen in the increasing share of unemployed persons and falling share of employed persons between 2009 and 2013.

Increases in unemployment and part-time employment resulted in an increased activity rate between 2006 and 2016

One of the main factors driving the change in the working status structure of the population between 2006 and 2016 was the increase in the number of persons who were in part-time employment: their share increased by 1.7 percentage points over 10 years to reach 11.9 % of the entire population in 2016. The share of the population that was in full-time employment was more stable, just 0.1 percentage points lower in 2016 than it had been in 2006, reflecting slightly lower growth in absolute terms than recorded for the population (aged 15–74) as a whole. A second factor driving the increase in the activity rate between 2006 and 2016 was the increase in the number of unemployed people: the share of the unemployed in the population (which should not be confused with the unemployment rate) increased by 0.4 percentage points, from 5.1 % in 2006 to 5.5 % in 2016.

Concerning economically inactive members of the population aged 15–74, the share of the population that was in education remained relatively stable: it moved from 8.1 % in 2006, through a low of 7.8 % in 2011 and 2012, to a peak of 8.4 % in 2013 and 2014, and finished at 8.2 % in 2016, almost the same as it was in 2006. The overall fall between 2006 and 2016 in the share of the population aged 15–74 that was economically inactive resulted from a decline in the share that was retired as well as a decline in the share of other economically inactive people (for example people caring for family members or simply not looking for work). The share of retired people in the population aged 15–74 fell by 1.2 percentage points between 2006 and 2016 to reach 14.4 %, reflecting, among other factors, the implementation of increases in retirement/pension ages in many EU Member States. The share of other economically inactive persons also fell, down from 13.9 % in 2006 to 13.1 % in 2016.

Employment rates

The Europe 2020 target for the employment rate (the ratio of employed persons compared with the population of the same age group) is to ensure that 75 % of 20–64 year-olds are employed by 2020.

The 20–64 age group has been selected to ensure compatibility at the lower end of the age range, given that an increasing proportion of young people remain within educational systems. At the upper age limit, employment rates are usually set to a maximum of 64 years, taking into account (statutory) retirement or pension ages across Europe. Note that several governments have legislated to increase the retirement or pension age gradually over the coming years and it is likely that an increasing proportion of older persons will remain in employment beyond the age of 64.

The employment rate is considered to be a key social indicator for analytical purposes when studying developments within labour markets. In the face of demographic changes and the ageing of the EU’s population, raising the employment rate is considered essential for the sustainability of the EU’s social model, welfare and its public finances.

The headline target is to have at least 75 % of people aged 20–64 in employment by 2020

CH-5 empl-rate RYB17.png
Among persons aged 20–64, there were 214.8 million persons employed in the EU-28 in 2016. The employment rate in this age range peaked in the EU-28 at 70.3 % in 2008. However, in the aftermath of the global financial and economic crisis, there was a period of falling employment and rising unemployment from 2009–13. Indeed, the impact of the crisis was considerable: in 2009, the employment rate fell by 1.3 percentage points and there were further reductions through to 2013 when it stabilised at 68.4 %. Against a background of developments in gross domestic product (GDP) turning positive, the first signs of the EU-28’s labour market strengthening occurred towards the end of 2013 and this pattern was confirmed in 2014 and 2015. The employment rate was 71.1 % in 2016, surpassing for the first time its pre-crisis level from eight years earlier.

With the Europe 2020 target set at 75 %, average annual growth of almost 1.0 percentage points will be necessary in each of the coming four years if this goal is to be achieved. In order to boost employment rates, policymakers have focused on increasing employment rates for women, young people and older workers.

A majority of regions in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and the United Kingdom had employment rates above 75 %, as did Estonia and Lithuania

Map 1 presents 2016 employment rates for people aged 20–64 for NUTS level 2 regions. The highest employment rates — equal to or above the Europe 2020 target of 75 % — are shown in the two darkest shades of orange. There were 108 regions out of the 276 EU regions where the latest employment rate was equal to or above the Europe 2020 target.

The highest regional employment rate in the EU-28 in 2016 was recorded in the Finnish archipelago of Åland, where 86.2 % of the population aged 20–64 were in employment, while the second and third highest regional employment rates were 83.4 %, registered in Stockholm, the capital city region of Sweden, and in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, to the east of the British capital city regions.

In 2016, there were 33 further regions which reported that at least four fifths of their population aged 20–64 was in employment. The vast majority of these were in Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden, with the exceptions being Praha in the Czech Republic, Utrecht in the Netherlands and Vorarlberg in Austria. The highest employment rates in Germany tended to be recorded in the southern regions, although there were also rates of 80 % or higher in a few regions in the north and the east. In a similar manner, the highest employment rates in the United Kingdom were mainly in the southern half of England, with one region in the north of England and one in Scotland.

The other regions which reported employment rates that were equal to or above the Europe 2020 target of 75 % in 2016 included the two other Swedish regions and most of the remaining German and British regions. Also falling into this category (with employment rates of at least 75 % but not reaching 80 %) were all Danish regions, nearly all remaining Dutch regions, more than half of the Czech regions and half of the remaining Austrian regions, as well as Estonia and Lithuania (each a single region at this level of detail). Additionally, there were five other separate regions where the latest employment rate was also equal to or above 75 % but below 80 %: the capital city regions of Slovakia, Finland and Hungary, the northern Italian region of the Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano/Bozen (Italy) and the French region of Limousin.

All regions of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland had employment rates that were above 75 % in 2016, with the rate in Iceland (87.8 %) higher than in any of the EU regions.

The lowest employment rates were recorded in EU Member States that were strongly affected by the sovereign debt crisis, in particular, Greece, Spain and Italy

In 2016, there were six regions in the EU where the employment rate (among those aged 20–64) was below 50 % (in other words, less than half of the working-age population was in work). Four of the lowest rates were recorded in the south of Italy, in Calabria, Sicilia, Campania and Puglia, while the other two regions were the French and Spanish overseas regions of Mayotte and Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla.

Regional employment rates below 60 % in 2016 are shown with the lightest shade of orange in Map 1. These 32 regions were largely concentrated in the French overseas regions or in southern EU Member States. The vast majority of these were in Greece, Italy, Spain and France, the only exceptions being the Belgian capital city region, the Bulgarian region of Severozapaden, and the Croatian coastal region (Jadranska Hrvatska). All except three Turkish regions also reported employment rates below 60 %, with five of these below 50 % and one below 40 %.

While all EU Member States showed some differences in employment rates between regions, these were often not very large. Two of the Member States with a single region with a particularly high rate reported relatively low rates elsewhere: in Austria, Vorarlberg recorded a rate of 80.1 %, while the capital city region had a rate of 68.0 %; in Finland, the rate of 86.2 % in Åland (the highest rate of all EU regions) contrasted with a rate of 69.7 % in Pohjois- ja Itä-Suomi. As already noted, the French overseas regions reported relatively low rates, and these were notably lower than those observed elsewhere in France. Furthermore, in Italy and Spain there were broad North–South divides, with higher employment rates in the north.

Employment rates increased in a majority of EU regions between 2006 and 2016

It has already been noted that labour market developments between 2006 and 2016 were not generally smooth. The global financial and economic crisis lead to employment rates falling between 2009 and 2013, with a return to increasing rates observed from 2014 onwards. The employment rate (for persons aged 20–64) in the EU-28 reached 71.1 % in 2016, 2.2 percentage points higher than the value in 2006. Map 2 shows a regional analysis over the same period. A total of 185 regions in the EU reported a higher employment rate in 2016 than in 2006 and three regions reported unchanged rates: these regions are shown in the blue shades in the map. A total of 82 regions — shown in the two yellow shades in Map 2 — reported a fall in their employment rate between these years.

In general terms, national patterns can be seen in the regional developments of the multi-regional EU Member States. In the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Poland, Slovakia and Sweden, all regions reported higher employment rates in 2016 than in 2006, as was also the case in Switzerland. In Belgium, Bulgaria, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom a large majority of regions also reported an increase. By contrast, all regions in Denmark (change between 2007 and 2016), Ireland, Greece and Croatia (change between 2007 and 2016) reported a decline in employment rates, as did a large majority of regions in Spain and Portugal.

In the remaining multi-regional EU Member States and Norway, a more varied regional picture could be observed in the change in employment rates between 2006 and 2016. In France, four of the six regions in the Bassin parisien (which encircles the capital city region) recorded a fall in employment rates, as did the Nord - Pas-de-Calais as well as two eastern regions, Alsace and Lorraine; elsewhere in France the rates increased. In Italy there was a clear North–South divide concerning the change in employment rates, with increases in the north and decreases in the south: the divide in employment rates observed in Map 1 widened over the last decade. In Romania, there was also a fairly clear North-South divide, with again the northern regions reporting increases in the employment rate and southern regions decreases, although the capital city region, which is in the south, was an exception. In Finland, the employment rate increased in Åland in the south and Pohjois- ja Itä-Suomi in the north, but decreased in the regions between them. In Norway, three of the more northerly regions experienced increases in employment rates, whereas all other regions recorded decreases.

The highest increase in the employment rate between 2006 and 2016 among all EU regions was in Dolnoslaskie in Poland, where it increased by 12.5 percentage points; the same increase was observed in Kayseri, Sivas, Yozgat in Turkey. Increases of 12.2 percentage points were reported for Berlin in Germany and a second Polish region, Pomorskie. Among all 31 EU regions with the darkest shade in Map 2, in other words those where the increase was at least 8.0 percentage points, 12 were in Germany, 11 in Poland and four in Hungary. The remaining regions were Malta (one region at this level of detail), Corse in France, Nord-Est in Romania and Moravskoslezsko in the Czech Republic.

Five Greek regions — Ipeiros, Dytiki Ellada, Thessalia, Sterea Ellada and Kriti — experienced falls in their employment rates between 2006 and 2016 that were greater than 10 percentage points; the largest was 11.9 percentage points in Kriti. Among all 28 EU regions where the fall exceeded 4.0 percentage points, 20 were in Greece and Spain (10 each), while four others were also in southern EU Member States: two in Italy, one in Portugal and in Cyprus (one region at this level of detail). The remaining four regions where employment rates fell by more than 4.0 percentage points comprised three in western Member States (two in France and one in Ireland) and one in Romania in the east. Some of these regions may have experienced net outward migration, with people of working age leaving to look for work elsewhere, thereby depressing the employment rate.

Male employment rates were higher than female rates in all regions of the EU except for Corse (France) and Övre Norrland (Sweden)

A further analysis of employment rates highlights a considerable, though narrowing, gender gap in the EU-28. In 2006, the employment rate for men was 15.7 percentage points higher than for women, but by 2016 this had narrowed to 11.5 percentage points. A particularly strong contraction in this gap (-1.6 percentage points) was observed in 2009, at the peak of the global financial and economic crisis. Thereafter the gap continued to narrow alongside the fall in the overall employment rate, reaching 11.6 percentage points by 2014, after which it remained stable. By 2016, the employment rate for women had reached 65.3 %, 2.5 percentage points above its pre-crisis high of 62.8 % in 2008. For men the rate in 2016 was 76.8 % and so remained below its 2008 pre-crisis high of 77.8 %, but above the Europe 2020 target.

Gender differences in the employment rate may occur for a number of reasons, including differences in levels of participation in education or educational attainment and different economic structures or industrial specialisation (which may favour job creation for specific occupations). Nevertheless, family responsibilities — maternity, caring for children and/or other family members — are frequently recognised as being one of the main reasons for lower levels of (economic) activity among women; this reflects cultural traditions as well as the availability and affordability of care alternatives.

Figure 2 presents the gender gap in employment rates by way of the ratio of the rate for women compared with the rate for men. In 2016, this ratio was 85 % in the EU-28 as a whole, up from 80 % in 2006. In general, high ratios (and therefore small gender gaps) were observed in all northern EU Member States (in other words, the Baltic and Nordic Member States), as well as in Slovenia, Portugal, Austria, Germany, France and Bulgaria. Relatively low ratios (and therefore large gender gaps) were observed in Malta, Greece, Italy and Romania.

The regional gender gaps illustrated by Figure 2 strongly reflect national gender gaps, with notable exceptions in Italy and Spain and to a lesser extent in France, Greece and Romania; strong regional differences in the gender gap were also observed in Turkey. Particularly weak regional differences — among EU Member States with more than two regions — were observed in the Czech Republic, Finland, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

Relative to rates for men, employment rates for women were particularly low in southern Italy

There were only two regions in the EU — Corse in France and Övre Norrland in Sweden — where the gender gap was reversed, with the employment rate for women exceeding that for men and the ratio of these two rates therefore passing the value of 1; a similar situation was observed in Nord-Norge in Norway. The three largest imbalances in EU regions, with employment rates for women only just over half the rates for men, were observed in the southern Italian regions of Puglia, Sicilia and Campania.

Capital city regions often reported gender gaps that were slightly narrower than national averages, resulting in the ratio of employment rates for women to men being slightly higher in these regions. However, this was not the case in Belgium, France, Croatia, Finland, Sweden or the United Kingdom, as can be seen from Figure 2. In fact, in Belgium, Croatia and Finland the lowest regional ratio (and therefore the highest gender gap) was recorded in the capital city region. By contrast, the capital city region recorded the highest ratio between women’s and men’s employment rates (and therefore the lowest gender gap) of all regions in several eastern EU Member States (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia) as well as in Denmark, Ireland and Austria.

Employment rates for older workers were high in all Swedish regions while they were lowest in the Greek capital city region

The final analysis of regional employment rates presented in this article looks at the rates for older people, in other words those aged 55–64. Compared with the employment rate of 71.0 % for all persons aged 20–64, the employment rate for older people in the EU-28 was nearly 16 percentage points lower in 2016, at 55.3 %. Unlike the overall employment rate and despite the global financial and economic crisis the employment rate for older people increased each and every year between 2002 (the beginning of the time series) and 2016, gaining 17.2 percentage points. For comparison, the employment rate for persons aged 20–64 increased by just 4.3 percentage points during the same period.

Among the 276 NUTS level 2 regions in the EU, 22 reported an employment rate for older people that reached 70 % or higher in 2016, with this indicator peaking at 80.8 % (low reliability) in the Finnish archipelago of Åland. Most of the other regions with such high employment rates for older people were in Germany or Sweden, with two in the south of the United Kingdom. It should be noted that all eight Swedish regions reported high employment rates for older people, ranging from 72.9 % in Sydsverige to 77.8 % in Småland med öarna. More generally, all regions in Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the three Baltic Member States reported employment rates for older people of at least 60 % (shown with the two darkest shades in Map 3).

By contrast, Greece, Croatia, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia reported employment rates for older people below 50 % in all regions in 2016; in fact, in both regions in Croatia and in Luxembourg (one region at this level of detail), the rates were less than 40 %, as shown by the lightest shade in Map 3. Other EU Member States with at least one region with an employment rate for older people below 50 % include Spain, France, Italy, Poland and Romania. The lowest rates among all EU regions were both in Greece, 30.5 % in Attiki, the Greek capital city region, and 33.8 % in Dytiki Makedonia.

Employment characteristics

33.1 million self-employed people in the EU-28 in 2016, 14.8 % of all employed persons

There were 33.1 million persons (aged 15 and over) in the EU-28 who were self-employed in 2016, among whom 30.5 million were aged 20–64. As a share of all employed persons this was equivalent to 14.8 % for those aged 15 and over and 14.2 % among those aged 20–64.

In 2002 (beginning of the time series), the share of self-employed people in the age range 20–64 was 14.7 %. Over the next eight years this share developed in a narrow range, rising to 15.1 % (2004), falling back to 14.5 % (2008), and rising again to 14.9 % (2010). After 2010, the share of self-employed persons experienced a more sustained decrease, falling 0.7 percentage points to its lowest level (since the beginning of the time series). Figure 3 provides a regional analysis of the share of self-employed persons (aged 20–64) in 2016. Particularly high shares of self-employed persons were recorded in Greece and to a lesser extent in Italy and Poland. The share of self-employment was lowest in Denmark, Sweden and Luxembourg.

All Greek regions except for the capital city region recorded very high shares of self-employed persons in 2016

The regional dispersion of the share of self-employment varied greatly within many EU Member States in 2016. A particularly strong regional variation could be seen in Romania, with a relatively low share of self-employment in the capital city region, a particularly high share in Nord-Est and also quite large differences in the shares of the other Romanian regions. Relatively large regional variations in the share of self-employed persons were also observed in Hungary, Poland, France and the United Kingdom, as well as in Turkey. In Greece, the share of self-employed persons was quite uniformly high across most regions, with the capital city region the main exception: in Attiki the share was 12 percentage points lower than in any other Greek region. Particularly weak regional differences — among Member States with more than two regions — were observed in Slovakia, Denmark, Austria and Croatia.

There were 12 regions in the EU where the share of self-employed persons exceeded 30 % in 2016, all of which were in Greece. In fact, all regions in Greece except for the capital city region reported that more than 30 % of employed persons were self-employed. Elsewhere, this share reached exactly 30.0 % in Sud-Est in Romania and was over 25 % in three southern Italian regions (Molise, Basilicata and Abruzzo), Liguria in north-eastern Italy and two eastern Polish regions (Lubelskie and Podlaskie). The 4.3 % share of self-employed persons recorded in the Romanian capital city region was the only share below 5 % among all regions in the EU.

Two capital city regions are mentioned above as having particularly low shares of self-employed relative to other regions in the same EU Member State, namely the capital city regions of Greece and Romania. Bulgaria, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Portugal and Finland were the other Member States (among those with at least two NUTS level 2 regions) that reported that their lowest share of self-employed persons was in their capital city region. By contrast, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Sweden were the only Member States where the capital city region recorded the highest share of self-employed persons.

The average number of hours worked in the EU-28 in 2016 was 37.1 per week, rising to 41.4 per week for people in full-time employment

CH-5 weekly-working-time-with-clock RYB17.png
A key area of interest when analysing employment is to quantify labour input. This may be done by simply compiling data on the number of persons in employment, but other measures are available, for example distinguishing between people working full-time and part-time, or quantifying the number of hours worked. The latter is based on the number of hours actually worked (rather than contractual or paid hours) and includes the sum of all hours spent on direct and ancillary activities to produce goods and services. The data presented in Map 4 concern the number of hours normally worked, including overtime, but excluding travel time between home and workplace and main meal breaks. In cases where a person has more than one job, the data shown correspond to the main job only.

The average number of hours worked per week in the EU-28 in 2016 was 37.1. For men the average was 40.0 hours per week while for women it was 33.7 hours per week. A large part of this difference can be explained by the fact that a larger proportion of women than men work part-time. For people working full-time, the average was 41.4 hours per week, with the gap between the average for men (42.3 hours) and women (40.0 hours) much narrower than for all persons employed. For part-time workers, average weekly hours were slightly higher for women (20.6) than for men (19.2).

The average weekly hours worked in the EU-28 fell steadily from 37.8 in 2008 (start of the time series) to 37.1 in 2016, a fall of just under three quarters of an hour per week. This fall is mainly the result of a structural shift in the labour force, as the proportion of part-time employees increased. Between 2008 and 2016 the average weekly hours of full-time persons employed fell from 41.7 to 41.4, in other words a fall of just over a quarter of an hour per week. During the same period the average number of weekly hours worked by part-time persons employed increased from 19.9 to 20.3, an increase of less than half an hour per week.

In most EU Member States, average hours in 2016 ranged from 35.1 per week in Germany to 40.8 per week in Bulgaria, with the Netherlands (30.3 per week) and Denmark (32.9 per week) below this range and Greece (42.3 per week) above it.

Map 4 presents a regional analysis of the average weekly hours worked, focusing on people aged 20–64. Within this age group, the average hours worked was 37.6 per week in 2016, about half an hour longer per week than the average for persons of all ages.

Average weekly hours were above 40 in Greece and many regions of eastern EU Member States …

A total of 55 of the 276 NUTS level 2 regions in the EU reported an average working week in 2016 for persons aged 20–64 that reached or exceeded 40 hours, including all 13 Greek regions. Furthermore, 12 of the 14 regions with the highest average hours per week were in Greece (the Greek capital city region was not among them), the other two being the Polish region of Podlaskie and the Slovakian capital city region. The highest averages of all were in the Greek island regions of Ionia Nisia and Notio Aigaio where the average passed 46 hours. Elsewhere, at least half of all regions in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia reported that average hours reached or exceeded 40 per week, and this was also the case in the Hungarian capital city region and one of the two British capital city regions (Inner London - West).

… and below 33 hours in all Dutch regions

Reflecting the high part-time employment rates in the Netherlands, the lowest average weekly hours of people aged 20–64 in the EU regions in 2016 were observed in Dutch regions. The highest average among any of the Dutch regions was 32.4 hours per week in Zeeland, approximately one and three-quarter hours per week less than the lowest average in any other region of the EU. Elsewhere the regional averages were below 36 hours per week in all Danish regions, the vast majority of German regions, most French overseas regions as well as Corse (France), Prov. Luxembourg (Belgium) and Sardegna (Italy).

Germany, Italy and Finland were the only EU Member States where the capital city region did not record the highest regional average earnings in 2014

The final part of the analysis of employment characteristics focuses on earnings. The data presented in Figure 4 are compiled from a survey of enterprises with at least 10 employees. The coverage is NACE Sections B–S excluding Section O, in other words it does not cover agriculture, hunting and fishing, nor public administration, defence and compulsory social security, nor the activities of households (as employers) and extraterritorial organisations. The data are average (mean) annual earnings: remuneration in cash paid by the employer before tax deductions and social security contributions payable by wage/salary-earners and retained by the employer. Included are not only regular (weekly or monthly) payments, but also payments such as 13th or 14th month payments as well as holiday and other bonuses (whether in cash or in kind).

Annual earnings in the EU-28 averaged EUR 33.8 thousand in 2014. Among the EU Member States this average varied greatly, from EUR 10.3 thousand in Hungary to EUR 46.0 thousand in Ireland, with the averages in Lithuania (EUR 8.8 thousand), Romania (EUR 6.7 thousand) and Bulgaria (EUR 5.8 thousand) below this range and those in Luxembourg (EUR 59.0 thousand) and Denmark (EUR 55.2 thousand) above them; an even higher average was recorded in Switzerland (EUR 72.1 thousand).

The regional analysis in Figure 4 is based on NUTS level 1 regions, meaning that many of the EU Member States have just one region. The regional dispersion for average earnings in 2014 was relatively weak in Finland, Austria and Sweden. In several Member States, the regional dispersion appeared to be strong in 2014 because of particularly high average earnings in just one region, the capital city region; this was the case in Belgium, the United Kingdom and France, and to a lesser extent in the Netherlands, Poland, Hungary and Romania. Germany, Italy and Finland were the only Member States where the capital city region did not record the highest regional average earnings.

Unemployment rates

High unemployment (particularly long-term unemployment) may reflect economic problems and potentially leads to a wide range of social problems, most directly poverty and social exclusion. In 2016, there were 20.9 million persons (aged 15–74) in the EU-28 who were unemployed. As a share of the labour force (persons who are employed or unemployed), this represented an unemployment rate of 8.5 %. In 2000 (start of the time series for the EU-28), there were 20.0 million unemployed persons in the EU-28, equivalent to 8.9 % of the labour force. The unemployment rate rose to 9.3 % by 2004, before falling for four consecutive years to reach 7.0 % in 2008. The global financial and economic crisis impacted strongly on the EU-28’s labour market, resulting in five consecutive annual increases in the unemployment rate, peaking at 10.9 % in 2013. In the three most recent years, 2014–2016, a fall in the EU-28 unemployment rate was observed, bringing the rate down to its fourth lowest level since the time series began, higher only than during the period 2006–2008. Comparing 2016 with 2008, 4.2 million more people were unemployed in 2016 than at the onset of the crisis.

Among the EU Member States, unemployment rates varied greatly in 2016, with the 23.6 % rate in Greece nearly six times as high as the 4.0 % rate in the Czech Republic. Along with Greece, several other southern Member States — Spain, Cyprus, Italy and Portugal — reported unemployment rates above 10 %, as did Croatia and France. The one other southern Member State, Malta, was one of four Member States where unemployment rates below 5 % were observed, the others being the United Kingdom, Germany and the Czech Republic.

The highest unemployment rates were concentrated in Greek, Spanish, French and Italian regions …

Taking all of the EU regions together, the highest regional rates of unemployment (shown with the darkest shade in Map 5) can be found in four clusters: most Greek regions, French overseas regions, southern Italy and southern/eastern Spain (as well as Canarias). Generally the high rates in these regions reflect the impact of the global financial and economic crisis as well as underlying structural unemployment. Unemployment rates above 30 % were observed in two regions in the EU in 2016: the Greek region of Dytiki Makedonia (31.3 %) and the Spanish region of Ciudad Autónoma de Melilla (30.8 %).

… while the lowest rates were predominantly recorded in German regions

The lowest regional unemployment rates in the EU were in Niederbayern (2.1 %) in Germany and the Czech capital city region (2.2 %), followed by four more southern German regions. Considering all 84 regions in the EU where the unemployment rate was below 5 %, the vast majority were in Germany or the United Kingdom. Among western EU Member States such low rates were also observed in several Belgian and Austrian regions as well as one in the Netherlands (Zeeland), while among eastern Member States, regions with unemployment rates below 5 % were located in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Romania. None of the regions in the northern Member States had unemployment rates below 5 % (the lowest was 5.5 % in Midtjylland in Denmark), while there were just two from the south, Malta (which is one region at this level of regional analysis) and Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano/Bozen in the north of Italy.

The dispersion of unemployment rates is the coefficient of variation of regional unemployment rates. The coefficient of variation is calculated by dividing the standard deviation by the mean; it is then multiplied by 100 to make a percentage. This indicator measures the spread of regional unemployment rates in relation to the national rate. If all the regional unemployment rates are equal (regardless of whether they are all high or all low), the dispersion is zero. Large differences between regional unemployment rates imply a wide dispersion. The regional dispersion rates can be calculated at any level of the regional classification for which data are available, for example for NUTS levels 1, 2 or 3.

The most dispersed regional unemployment rates were observed in Belgium, Italy, Austria, France and Hungary

The regional analysis presented in Map 5 shows that there were several EU Member States where the national averages result from quite diverse regional situations. The most uniform unemployment rates were observed in Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, Finland, Ireland, Portugal and Slovenia, while the strongest regional variations (between NUTS level 2 regions) were recorded for Belgium, Italy, Austria, France and Hungary. In Belgium, the lowest unemployment rates in 2016 were in the five regions that make up Vlaams Gewest (four of which were under 5 %), while the highest was in the capital city region (16.8 %). In Italy, there was a clear North–South divide, with higher unemployment rates in the south and lower ones in the north. In Austria, a similar situation to that in Belgium was observed, as a cluster of regions (in the west) reported the lowest unemployment rates, all under 5 %, while the capital city region reported a rate (11.3 %) that was approximately double the rate in the next highest region (5.7 % in Burgenland). In France, unemployment rates in the overseas regions were all higher than in any of the other regions, with rates in four overseas regions exceeding 20 %. Although all of the unemployment rates in Hungary were below 10 %, the rates in two of the three western regions that make up Dunántúl were particularly low (2.7 % in Nyugat-Dunántúl and 3.0 % in Közép-Dunántúl) such that the regional dispersion was quite high, given that the unemployment rate reached 9.3 % in the easternmost region of Észak-Alföld.

Figure 5 looks at how the regional variations within a selection of EU Member States have developed during the most recent 10-year period: note that all parts of the figure are shown with the same scale.

As noted above, the highest unemployment rate among EU Member States in 2016 was in Greece; this resulted from quite similar regional unemployment rates across all regions (at NUTS level 2 and level 3), with regional Greek unemployment rates converging between 2006 and 2016. The Czech Republic had the lowest unemployment rate among Member States in 2016, although its regional rates were quite diverse in 2006, but converged rapidly through to 2011, since when the level of dispersion has been broadly stable.

The two remaining parts of Figure 5 look at two EU Member States with very different developments to their national unemployment rates during the past 10 years. In Spain, the unemployment rate was 11.1 percentage points higher in 2016 (19.6 %) than it was in 2006 (8.5 %), which was the second largest increase after Greece (where the unemployment rate increased by 14.6 percentage points). In Poland, the unemployment rate fell by 7.7 percentage points, from 13.9 % in 2006 to 6.2 % in 2016. Despite the strong increase in national unemployment rates in Spain, there was a slight convergence in regional unemployment rates for both NUTS level 2 and level 3 regions. In Poland, the situation was slightly different depending whether NUTS level 2 or level 3 regions are analysed. For the smaller regions (NUTS level 3), there was a strong increase in the dispersion of regional unemployment rates between 2006 and 2007 before an almost equally strong convergence in 2008, since when the level of dispersion remained quite stable. For the less detailed NUTS level 2 regions, the level of dispersion for unemployment rates in Poland increased between 2006 and 2009, decreased rapidly in 2010 and then increased steadily through to 2016, when the level of dispersion overtook its previous 2009 peak.

The final analysis of unemployment data in this article concerns long-term unemployment. The indicator in Figure 6 is the long-term unemployment ratio, which is defined as the share, among all unemployed people, of those who have been without work for at least 12 months; this is compiled for people aged 15–74.

Close to half (46.9 %) of the unemployed in the EU-28 in 2016 had been without work for at least a year. This share had been slightly lower in 2002 (45.4 %), at the beginning of the time series for this indicator. Thereafter the long-term unemployment ratio rose to 46.2 % by 2005 and then fell to 33.3 % by 2009, initially reflecting an overall fall in unemployment and then a rapid increase in the number of newly unemployed as the global financial and economic crisis impacted the labour market. As the overall unemployment rate remained persistently high for several years, the long-term unemployment ratio increased once more, peaking at 49.6 % in 2014, after which it declined for two consecutive years.

The long-term unemployed are people who remain unemployed for 12 months or more. The longer somebody remains unemployed, the less attractive they are likely to be for potential employers, as their specific skills depreciate. Equally, long-term unemployment may have a significant impact on self-esteem and disillusionment, thereby increasing the risk of remaining even longer outside of employment. The long-term unemployment ratio is the share of people who have been without work for at least 12 months in the total unemployed population. This may be contrasted with the long-term unemployment rate, which is the number of people who remained unemployed for a period of 12 months or longer as a percentage of the total labour force.

The long-term unemployed accounted for a relatively low share of total unemployment in the Nordic Member States and in the United Kingdom

In 2016, the lowest long-term unemployment ratios among the EU Member States were recorded in the Nordic Member States — Sweden (19.2 %), Denmark (22.3 %) and Finland (25.9 %) — and the United Kingdom (27.2 %). Among the non-member countries for which data are available, the long-term unemployment ratio was also particularly low in Turkey (20.6 %) and Iceland (12.4 %, 2015 data). By contrast, at least half of the unemployed people in 10 Member States were long-term unemployed in 2016, with the long-term unemployment ratio peaking at 72.0 % in Greece; in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia the ratio reached 80.4 %.

Among the EU Member States, the regional dispersion of long-term unemployment ratios was weakest in 2016 in Slovenia, Ireland, Croatia and the Netherlands, while the ratios were most varied within the United Kingdom, Romania and France. In the United Kingdom a particularly high long-term unemployment ratio (58.8 %, 2014 data) was recorded for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the only region within the United Kingdom where this ratio exceeded the EU-28 average; even without this value the regional dispersion in the United Kingdom remained strong for this ratio. In Romania, the long-term unemployment ratio for the capital city region was considerably lower than for any other region, as its ratio of 20.4 % was less than half the 44.3 % observed for Nord-Vest, which had the next lowest ratio in Romania. In France, the strong regional dispersion in the long-term unemployment ratio was due to particularly high ratios for all five of its overseas regions.

In Mayotte, around four fifths of the unemployed had been out of work for at least 12 months

In 2016, there were 10 regions in the EU where the long-term unemployed accounted for at least 70 % of the total unemployed population. Seven of these regions were Greek, two were French overseas regions (Guadeloupe and Mayotte) and one was Bulgarian (Severozapaden). The highest regional long-term unemployment ratio of all within the EU was 80.9 % in Mayotte.

At the other end of the scale, 15 regions in the EU reported long-term unemployment ratios below 20 % in 2016, with seven of these in Sweden (all except Sydsverige), six in the United Kingdom (in a cluster from East Midlands to South East of England), and two in Jutland in Denmark. The three lowest regional long-term unemployment ratios in the EU were all in Sweden, with the lowest ratio (14.1 %) recorded in Småland med öarna.

In five EU Member States the lowest regional long-term unemployment ratios were reported in capital cities, with these considerably lower than in any other region in Slovakia and Romania, somewhat lower in the Finnish capital city region, but only slightly lower in the capital city regions of Ireland and Slovenia: these last two Member States have only two NUTS level 2 regions each. In Croatia (which also has only two NUTS level 2 regions), Denmark and Austria the highest regional long-term unemployment ratio was observed in the capital city region.

Data sources and availability

The information presented in this article mainly pertains to annual averages derived from the labour force survey (LFS). This survey covers 33 countries, comprising the 28 EU Member States, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and two candidate countries (the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey). The survey population generally consists of those persons aged 15 and over living in private households, with definitions aligned with those provided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).


The data presented in this article are generally based on the 2013 version of NUTS, although data for Figure 4 are presented based on the 2010 version of NUTS. For Map 2, which shows an analysis of the change in employment rate between 2006 and 2016, data are presented at NUTS level 1 for London as the earlier data have been converted from a previous version of NUTS.

Indicator definitions

Glossary entries on Statistics Explained are available for a wide range of labour market concepts/indicators, including: the labour force, employed persons, hours worked, earnings and unemployment.

For more information:
Dedicated section on the labour market
EU labour force survey — methodology


Generating employment and providing jobs is generally considered a key factor in combating social exclusion and the most effective way of giving people their independence, financial security and a sense of belonging. Although the EU seeks to promote the integration of all people within society, labour markets continue to be subject to discrimination, with various groups under-represented or excluded.

In regions that are characterised by relatively high employment and relatively low unemployment rates, there may be large numbers of unfilled job vacancies. This may, at least in part, be due to: unemployed applicants lacking the required skills or experience for certain posts; a lack of workforce mobility, with job vacancies being available in one region, while the unemployed look for work in another region; a lack of decent and affordable housing that prevents people moving into a region to fill job vacancies; a relatively low level of pay for some job vacancies (particularly in affluent and expensive regions), which makes it difficult to recruit people to certain occupations.

Europe 2020 flagship initiatives

Employment issues are integrated into the Europe 2020 strategy as one of five headline targets, namely that 75 % of the 20–64 year-olds in the EU-28 should be employed by 2020. Individual agreements exist with each EU Member State and national targets range from employment rates of 80 % or more in Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden down to 70 % or less in Ireland, Greece, Croatia, Italy, Malta and Romania; there is no target in the national reform programme for the United Kingdom.

Progress towards the Europe 2020 target of 75 % for the employment rate among those aged 20–64 is analysed in the EU’s annual growth survey and its accompanying joint employment report. The latest of these — from the end of 2016 — points out that there were some signs of a moderate economic recovery in the EU and that the target might be achieved by 2020. Despite the upturn in European labour markets, the report also noted that poverty remained high and employment and social outcomes varied significantly across the EU Member States. With this in mind, the growth survey for 2017 called for Member States to pursue structural reforms that should, among others, create jobs and enhance skills and also promote social policy as a productive factor.

While almost all of the Europe 2020 flagship initiatives have some relevance for labour markets, two are directly aimed at improving the employability of the workforce. An agenda for new skills and jobs (COM(2010) 682 final) sets out, through 13 key actions, to promote a substantial increase in employment rates, particularly those for women, young and older workers. Youth on the move (COM(2010) 477 final) was a Europe 2020 flagship initiative that came to an end as of December 2014. Its aim was to help young people gain the knowledge, skills and experience they needed to secure their first job. The initiative proposed 28 actions aimed at making education and training more relevant, increasing young people’s employability and access to the labour market, as well as ensuring that young people had the right skills for the jobs of tomorrow.

Other policy initiatives

In April 2012, the European Commission launched the so-called employment package, as detailed in its Communication titled ‘Towards a job-rich recovery‘ (COM(2012) 173 final). This focused on the potential for structural, labour market reforms promoting job creation through to 2020, building on the Europe 2020 agenda for new skills and jobs through identifying areas where there is a high potential for future job creation.

In February 2013, the European Council agreed on a youth employment initiative with a budget of around EUR 6 billion for the period 2014–2020, largely to support young people not in education, employment or training. This initiative concerns any region that has a youth unemployment rate that is over 25 % and supports measures to integrate young people (in particular those who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs)) into the labour market.

Adopted in November 2014, the Investment plan for Europe aims to promote structural reforms to nurture the economic recovery and provide a further basis for sustainable growth. It is estimated that during its first year, the plan contributed towards the creation of 100 000 new jobs. European structural and investment funds are used to boost jobs, by investing in human capital, thereby encouraging more people into jobs, combatting poverty and social exclusion, and creating the workforce of tomorrow. The European Commission estimates that over the period 2014–2020, funds under this plan will:

  • provide support for the direct creation of almost 600 000 new jobs;
  • help up to 2.3 million people find employment, including self-employment;
  • help 10 million unemployed people improve their chances of finding a job.

See also

Further Eurostat information

Data visualisation


Main tables

Regional labour market statistics (t_reg_lmk)
Employment rate of the age group 15-64 by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00007)
Employment rate of the age group 55-64 by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00054)
Employment rate of the age group 20-64 by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00102)
Dispersion of regional employment rates, by sex (tsdec440)
Unemployment rate by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00010)
Long-term unemployment rate (12 months and more) by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00053)
LFS series -Specific topics (t_lfst)


Regional labour market statistics (reg_lmk)
LFS series -Specific topics (lfst)
LFS regional series (lfst_r)
Regional population and economically active population - LFS annual series (lfst_r_lfpop)
Regional employment - LFS annual series (lfst_r_lfemp)
Regional unemployment - LFS annual series (lfst_r_lfu)
Regional labour market disparities - LFS series and LFS adjusted series (lfst_r_lmd)
Regional labour market statistics by degree of urbanisation (lfst_r_lfurb)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

Source data for figures and maps (MS Excel)

External links