Back Unemployment rate rose in the majority of EU regions in 2020


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In 2020, the year of the COVID-19 outbreak, the unemployment rate of people aged 15-74 increased in the majority of the NUTS 2 regions of the EU. It continued to vary widely across the EU regions, with the lowest unemployment rate recorded in the Polish region Wielkopolskie (1.8%), in two Czech regions: Central Bohemia (1.9%) and South-West (2.0%), followed by three further Czech regions: Prague, North-East and South-East (all 2.3%).

At the opposite end of the scale, the highest unemployment rates were registered in the Spanish autonomous cities of Ceuta (24.5%) and Melilla (23.7%) and two further Spanish regions: Canary Islands (22.6%) and Andalusia (22.3%).

This information comes from regional data on the labour market in 2020 published by Eurostat today. The article presents only a handful of findings from the more detailed Statistics Explained article.


Regional unemployment across NUTS 2 regions, 2020

Source dataset: lfst_r_lfu3rt


In 2019, the unemployment rate of people aged 15-74 in the EU was at its record low since 2000. However, the unemployment rate increased by 0.4 percentage points (pp) in 2020 compared with 2019 as the labour market was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The majority of the EU regions registered an increase in their unemployment rate although to a varying extent. Among EU regions with available data*, the highest increase was recorded in the Greek region of Crete (+5.6 pp compared with 2019), followed by the Balearic Islands (+4.3 pp) in Spain, the Ionian Islands (+3.6 pp) and South Aegean (+3.0 pp) in Greece as well as Champagne-Ardenne (+2.6 pp) in France.

In contrast, less than one-third (31%) of the EU regions saw their unemployment rate fall in 2020. The highest decreases were registered in the Greek region of West Macedonia (-4.9 pp compared with 2019) and an overseas region of France Réunion (-3.9 pp), followed by the Spanish autonomous city of Melilla (-3.3 pp) and two further overseas regions of France: French Guiana (-3.2 pp) and Guadeloupe (-3.1 pp).

* German regions excluded from comparison due to break in time series


For more information:

  • These data on regional unemployment are compiled on the basis of the EU Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS).
  • They are based on the 2016 version of the Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS). In the text of this article, the names of the regions are in English.
  • France: The actual net sample for Corsica (FRM0) is too small to have reliable regional results and Mayotte (FRY5) is covered by a specific annual survey. As a result, data for these two regions should be treated with caution.
  • Germany: Changes in the survey methodology have led to a break in the German data in 2020. Therefore, estimates for 2020 cannot be compared directly with those of previous years. In addition, the data collection was also impacted by technical issues and COVID-19 measures in 2020 and the published German data therefore show a low reliability in some regions. They are preliminary and may be revised in the future. For more information, see here.
  • Unemployment and employment as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are, given the nature of the COVID-19 crisis, not sufficient to describe the developments taking place in the labour market. In the first phase of the crisis, active measures to contain employment losses led to absences from work rather than dismissals, and individuals could not look for work or were not available due to the containment measures, thus not counting as unemployed. Supplementary indicators might need to be taken into account to get the full picture. For more information, please look at the publication Labour market in the light of the COVID 19 pandemic.


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