Labour market statistics at regional level

Data extracted in April 2020.

Planned article update: September 2021.


In 2019, the highest regional employment rates in the EU were recorded in Åland (85.1 %), Stockholm (84.9 %) and Oberbayern (84.8 %).

There were at least two regions in each of France, Spain, Greece and Italy where the unemployment rate in 2019 was 20.0 % or more; a peak of 30.1 % was recorded in the French island region of Mayotte.

Source: Eurostat

As well as being of interest to governments and policymakers, labour markets are also paramount to personal development, as employment opportunities provide a means, among others, of gaining independence, financial security and a sense of belonging.

The European Commission’s priorities for 2019-2024 highlight the desire to develop a social market economy that works for people, by promoting fairness and prosperity. Some of the principal challenges outlined by President von der Leyen include: fully implementing the European pillar of social rights; ensuring that every worker has a fair minimum wage; promoting a better work-life balance; tackling gender pay gaps and other forms of workplace discrimination; getting more disabled people into work; and protecting citizens who are made unemployed.

This article analyses European Union (EU) labour markets and is split into two main sections, covering:

The article closes with a concise analysis of the impact that childcare responsibilities may have on the employment opportunities of the working-age population.

In 2019, the population aged 15-74 of the EU-27 numbered 332.3 million persons. The labour force — also referred to as the economically active population — was composed of 213.8 million people, while 118.5 million people in this age range were considered to be outside the labour force, in other words economically inactive. This latter cohort is largely composed of school-age children, students, pensioners, people caring for other family members, as well as volunteers and people unable to work because of long-term sickness or disability. Looking in somewhat more detail: the EU-27 labour force aged 15-74 was composed of 199.4 million employed persons and 14.4 million unemployed persons who were not working (but were actively seeking and available for work).

Full article

Employment rates

The employment rate is the ratio of employed persons (of a given age) relative to the total population (of the same age). Within this section, data are presented for the working-age population, defined here as people aged 20-64 years. The choice of this age range reflects the growing proportion of young people who remain within education systems into their late teens (and beyond), potentially restricting their participation in the labour market, while at the other end of the age spectrum the vast majority of people in the EU have retired by the time they reach the age of 65.

Increasing the number of people in work has been one of the EU’s main policy objectives in recent decades. It has been part of the European employment strategy (EES) from its outset in 1997 and was subsequently incorporated as a target in the Lisbon and Europe 2020 strategies. The employment rate is also included as one of the indicators in the social scoreboard which is used to monitor the implementation of the European pillar of social rights.

The EU-27 employment rate was 73 % in 2019 — its highest rate since the beginning of the time series

The employment rate for the working-age population (20-64 years) of the EU-27 was 73 % in 2019, marking its sixth consecutive increase since a relative low of 67 % in 2013. This was the highest rate recorded since the beginning of the time series in 2000.

Map 1 presents the employment rate for NUTS level 2 regions: the highest rates — equal to or above the Europe 2020 benchmark target of 75 % — are shown in a blue shade. In 2019, there were 111 out of 240 regions across the EU that had reached or surpassed this target. Every region in the Baltic Member States, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Cyprus, Malta and Sweden had an employment rate above 75 %. Some of the highest rates were concentrated across Germany and Sweden, with peaks of 84.8 % in Oberbayern and 84.9 % in Stockholm. However, the highest employment rate — 85.1 % — was recorded in the island region of Åland (Finland). By contrast, more than half (129 out of 240) of all EU regions recorded employment rates that were below the benchmark level of 75 % in 2019 (as shown by the yellow/orange shades). Among these, there were four regions — Sicilia, Campania and Calabria (in southern Italy) and Mayotte (France) — where less than half of the working-age population was employed.

There was a stark contrast in employment rates for EU capital regions

Within individual EU Member States, there were often relatively large intra-regional differences in employment rates. For example, in most of the multi-regional eastern and Baltic Member States it was common to find the capital region had the highest employment rate, as was the case in Bulgaria, Czechia, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. The situation was reversed in a number of western Member States — for example, Belgium, Germany and Austria — where the capital region had one of the lowest employment rates.

Rural, sparsely populated and peripheral regions recorded some of the lowest regional employment rates in the EU. This pattern was apparent in southern Spain and southern Italy, the régions ultrapériphériques of France, and many of the rural areas in eastern Europe (some of which remain characterised by semi-subsistence agriculture). Most of these regions were characterised by a lack of intermediate and highly-skilled employment opportunities. Former industrial heartlands that have been left behind are another group of regions characterised by relatively low employment rates. Many of these have witnessed the negative impact of globalisation on traditional areas of their economies (such as coal mining, steel and textiles manufacturing, or shipbuilding). Examples may be found in a band or regions running from north-east France, through parts of the région Wallonne (Belgium) and into northern Germany.

Map 1: Employment rate, 2019
(%, share of people aged 20-64 years, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emprtn)

Employment gender gap

Policymakers have placed particular emphasis on trying to increase the number of women, older people and migrants in work, hoping this might offset some of the challenges posed by demographic ageing.

Every region of the EU reported a higher share of men (than women) in employment

In 2019, the EU-27 female employment rate was 67.2 %, some 11.7 percentage points lower than the corresponding rate for men (78.9 %). The employment gender gap narrowed over the last couple of decades, as an increasing share of women entered the labour market. Nevertheless, the female employment rate was consistently lower than the male employment rate across each of the 240 NUTS level 2 regions for which data are available.

Figure 1 shows that in 2019 the highest male employment rate was recorded in the Czech capital region of Praha, where more than 9 out of 10 (91.4 %) men were in employment. The Lithuanian capital region of Sostinės regionas had the highest female employment rate (83.4 %). Some of the narrowest employment gender gaps were recorded in the Baltic and Nordic Member States, where female participation was high and where a large proportion of the population lived alone. There were five regions in the EU where the employment gender gap was less than 2.0 percentage points: both Lithuanian regions, the Finnish regions of Etelä-Suomi and Pohjois- ja Itä-Suomi, and Mellersta Norrland in Sweden.

Figure 1: Employment rate and employment gender gap, 2019
(people aged 20-64 years, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emprtn)

Half (120 out of 240) of EU regions recorded a double-digit employment gender gap in 2019. This situation was particularly evident across southern Europe, where female employment rates tended to be particularly low. This lack of female labour force participation may be explained, at least to some degree, by cultural attitudes, gender stereotypes, labour market inflexibility and government policies on issues such as childcare provision, parental leave or family tax allowances. There were five regions in the EU where the employment gender gap was more than 25.0 percentage points: four of these — Puglia, Basilicata, Campania and Calabria — were located in southern Italy, while the widest gap (30.8 points) was in the Greek region of Sterea Ellada.

Map 2: Employment gender gap, 2019
(percentage points, based on people aged 20-64 years, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emprtn)

Employment rates for older persons

With an ageing population, it is likely that policymakers will need to find ways of covering the additional costs associated with pensions, health and social care. One way of doing so is to encourage older people (defined here as those aged 55-64 years) to remain longer in the labour market, for example, by increasing the mandatory retirement age.

In approximately one quarter of EU regions, less than 50 % of older persons were employed

In 2002, the number of older people employed across the EU-27 stood at 17.0 million. This number increased every year thereafter — even through the global financial and economic crisis — more than doubling to a peak of 35.2 million in 2019. During the same period, the total number of persons employed (aged 20-64 years) increased by 20.4 million. As such, older people (aged 55-64 years) accounted for 89 % of the total expansion in the EU-27 workforce during the last 17 years.

Despite such rapid changes, the EU-27 employment rate for older persons was, at 59.1 % in 2019, some 13.9 percentage points below the rate for the working-age population (73.0 %). Map 3 distinguishes those regions where the employment rate for older persons was above (shaded in blue) and below (shaded in yellow/orange) the EU-27 average. The distribution was relatively normal, insofar as there were 114 (out of 240) regions that had rates above the EU-27 average. These included every region of the northern EU Member States, Czechia, Germany, Cyprus and the Netherlands. As for the employment rate for working-age people, some of the highest regional employment rates for older people were recorded in Germany and Sweden, with peaks of 78.4 % in Stuttgart and Tübingen and 79.8 % in Småland med öarna and Västsverige; there was also a relatively high rate in the Finnish region Åland (78.5 %).

The decision on when to retire reflects, among other factors, job characteristics, health, flexible retirement schemes and earnings potential in retirement. It also varies in relation to educational attainment, as older people with a low education level are less likely to remain in employment (than those with a tertiary education level), which may reflect the physical nature of some low-skilled, manual jobs. Relatively few older people were employed in southern and eastern EU Member States, as well as across much of France. The lowest employment rate for this cohort was recorded in the Greek capital region of Attiki, where less than two fifths (39.1 %) of the population aged 55-64 years had a job in 2019. There were only two other regions in the EU below 40.0 %, Dytiki Makedonia (also in Greece) and Śląskie (Poland); they both had employment rates for older people of 39.8 %.

Map 3: Employment rate of older persons, 2019
(%, share of people aged 55-64 years, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfe2emprtn)

Unemployment rates

Unemployment can have a bearing not just on the macroeconomic performance of a country (lowering productive capacity) but also on the well-being of individuals who are without work. The personal and social costs of unemployment are varied and include a higher risk of poverty and social exclusion, debt or homelessness, while the stigma of being unemployed may have a potentially detrimental impact on (mental) health.

In 2019, there were 14.2 million unemployed people (aged 15-74 years) in the EU-27, while the unemployment rate was 6.7 %; both of these figures were the lowest recorded since the beginning of the time series 2000. The decline in unemployment rates in recent years took place alongside a rise in the dispersion of unemployment rates across regions. Some EU Member States continued to record considerable regional disparities in their unemployment rates. This was particularly the case in Italy, France and Belgium, where the difference in unemployment rates between the highest and lowest regional values in 2019 was at least a factor of 5 : 1 (see Figure 2).

Many of the lowest regional unemployment rates in 2019 were concentrated in a cluster of regions that started in western Austria, moved up through southern Germany and across into Czechia and (western) Hungary. The three lowest rates were all recorded in Czechia: Střední Čechy, the capital region of Praha (both 1.3 %) and Jihozápad (1.5 %).

Figure 2: Unemployment rate, 2019
(%, share of labour force aged 15-74 years, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfu3rt)

Although the EU-27 unemployment rate was at a historic low in 2019, there remained 47 regions — predominantly located in southern Europe — with double-digit unemployment rates. These included every region of Greece, a majority of the regions in Spain, approximately one third of the regions in Italy and one quarter of the regions in France, as well as Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest (the capital region of Belgium) and Severozapaden (in Bulgaria). Some of these regions face structural issues (such as youth unemployment or long-term unemployment — both covered in more detail below), while others had yet to fully recover from the global financial and economic crisis.

Youth unemployment

One of the most pressing concerns in the area of social policymaking is youth unemployment. The performance of youth labour markets is closely linked to education and training systems and reflects, at least to some degree, a mismatch between the skills obtained by young people and the skills that are required by employers (to fill job vacancies).

In recent years, several EU Member States have enacted new employment laws with the goal of liberalising labour markets, for example, by providing a wider range of possibilities for hiring staff through temporary, fixed-term or zero hours contracts. In some cases this has resulted in a division between permanent, full-time employees and those with more precarious employment contracts. The latter are often young people and/or people with relatively low levels of educational attainment. This may explain, at least to some degree, why young people in the labour market generally fare worse during economic downturns; employers are also less likely to recruit new workers (young people coming into the labour market) or to replace those who retire during a downturn.

The EU-27 youth unemployment rate was 15.1 %

The youth (people aged 15-24 years) unemployment rate in the EU-27 fell from a peak of 24.4 % in 2013 down to 15.1 % by 2019; it was more than twice as high as the overall unemployment rate (6.7 % in 2019). Note that the youth unemployment rate is based on the same principles as the definition for the unemployment rate among the working-age population and that not every young person is in the labour market. As such, there is potential for the youth unemployment rate to be misinterpreted. For example, when the youth unemployment rate is 25 %, this does not mean that one quarter of all youths is unemployed. Rather, a quarter of those youths who are in the labour force are unemployed (and three quarters are employed), while those youths outside the labour market are neither in the numerator nor the denominator. An alternative indicator for analysing labour market patterns among young people is the youth unemployment ratio: this has the same numerator as the youth unemployment rate, but the denominator is the total population aged 15-24 years; it therefore provides a measure of unemployment-to-population.

Map 4 shows that approximately 7 out of 10 EU regions had double-digit youth unemployment rates in 2019, with rates rising above 20.0 % in more than one third of all regions. Youth unemployment was particularly concentrated in southern Europe. More than one out of every five members of the labour force aged 15-24 years was unemployed in every region of Greece and Spain, as well as every region in the south of Italy. At the top end of the range, there were six — largely peripheral — regions where the youth unemployment rate climbed to over 50.0 %: Ciudades Autónomas de Ceuta y Melilla (Spain), Mayotte, Guadeloupe (France), Dytiki Makedonia (Greece) and Sicilia (Italy).

At the other end of the range, there were nine regions in the EU where the youth unemployment rate was less than 5.0 % (note the latest data for Tübingen (Germany) refers to 2016). As for the overall unemployment rate, some of the lowest youth unemployment rates were recorded in Czechia and southern Germany, with lows of 2.8 % in Severovýchod and 3.3 % in Praha and Oberbayern. These rates may be explained, at least in part, by demographic factors that have led to a decrease in the overall number of young people (with the number of economically active people aged 15-24 years often reduced even more — as an increasing share of young people choose to remain in education). With a smaller pool of young persons, it might be expected that those who are looking for work are in high demand. For example, the number of young people aged 15-24 years living in Praha fell by more than one third (36.3 %) between 2000 and 2019, while the number of economically active people within this age cohort declined by more than half (50.2 %) over the same period.

Map 4: Youth unemployment rate, 2019
(%, share of labour force aged 15-24 years, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfu3rt)

Long-term unemployment

Long-term unemployment may have a considerable impact on an individual’s health, well-being and overall life satisfaction, while people in this situation have a far higher risk of falling into poverty and social exclusion. Furthermore, the longer somebody remains unemployed, the less attractive they are likely to be for potential employers.

Long-term unemployment disproportionately affects people at the end of their working lives: older people face a range of barriers that may prevent them from returning to the workforce, including age bias/discrimination and skills mismatches (outdated skills and qualifications with limited opportunities to retrain). The EU-27 long-term unemployment share, defined here as the share of unemployed persons (aged 15-74 years) who had been without work for at least 12 months, stood at 41.8 % in 2019; the corresponding share among older people (aged 55-64 years) was 57.7 %.

Map 5 shows that the long-term unemployment share was above 50.0 % in approximately one sixth (40 out of 235) of EU regions for which data are available. This form of structural unemployment was widespread across much of Greece, Italy and Slovakia. High long-term unemployment shares were also recorded in the peripheral regions of Spain, France and Portugal, as well as pockets of Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany and Romania. The highest long-term unemployment shares were recorded in Mayotte in France (84.4 %), Severozapaden in Bulgaria (83.1 %) and Dytiki Ellada, Peloponnisos and Attiki in Greece (75.2-75.4 %).

By contrast, the lowest long-term unemployment shares were concentrated in the Nordic Member States. Helsinki-Uusimaa — the capital region of Finland — was the only region across Denmark, Finland and Sweden to report that more than one fifth of all unemployed people in 2019 had been without work for at least a year. Relatively low long-term unemployment shares (below 20 %) were also recorded in five predominantly central regions of Poland (including the capital) as well as Steiermark (southern Austria).

Map 5: Long-term unemployment share, 2019
(%, share of unemployed persons aged 15-74 years, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (lfst_r_lfu2ltu)

Impact of childcare responsibilities on employment opportunities

As noted above, the challenges posed by issues such as population ageing have led policymakers to seek new methods for encouraging more people into work. Among these, more flexible working patterns and additional childcare services have promoted higher levels of female labour force participation. An ad-hoc module that formed part of the labour force survey addressed reconciliation between work and family life: one of its main aims was to measure how care responsibilities might impede upon labour market participation. The final section of this article provides an analysis of the impact that childcare responsibilities may have on the employment opportunities of the working-age population.

In 2018, almost one quarter (24.1 %) of the EU-27 workforce aged 18-64 years stated that childcare responsibilities had (at some stage in their lives) an effect on their employment, for example: a reduction in working time, taking parental leave, a change of job/employer, or taking on less demanding tasks at work to allow better reconciliation, or an increase in workload to earn more income to support a family. The share of employed persons who stated that they had adapted their work to facilitate childcare responsibilities varied considerably across EU regions. For example, more than two thirds (67.7 %) of the workforce in Sydsverige (Sweden) said that childcare responsibilities had an effect on their employment, in contrast to just 2.4 % of the workforce in Vest (Romania). The impact of childcare responsibilities was particularly high in the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden, a band of regions running from south-west France across to Austria, as well as several regions in Belgium and Germany.

These figures may be linked to the effectiveness of policy reforms and cultural differences. In those regions where social and welfare support systems are most highly developed (for example, Finland or Sweden) it was common to find a high proportion of respondents reporting that childcare responsibilities had an effect on their employment. This may reflect increased workplace flexibility, highly-subsidised childcare encouraging parents to remain in the labour force, or the opportunity for one or both parents to take parental leave. By contrast, childcare provisions and other support systems are less developed across many southern and eastern EU Member States. In these regions, a high proportion of mothers tend to remain outside of the workforce, taking on unpaid care responsibilities (which are not reflected in the calculation of this indicator) and hence childcare responsibilities are less likely to have an effect on their employment.

Map 6: People who stated that childcare responsibilities had an effect on their employment, 2018
(%, share of people aged 18-64 years in employment, by NUTS 2 regions)
Source: Eurostat (lfso_18ceffdu) and LFS ad-hoc module 2018 — reconciliation between work and family life

Source data for figures and maps

Excel.jpg Labour market at regional level

Data sources

The information presented in this article relates to annual averages derived from the labour force survey (LFS). Eurostat compiles and publishes labour market statistics for EU regions, the individual EU Member States, as well as the EU-27. In addition, data are also available for the United Kingdom, several EFTA (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and candidate (Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey) countries. The LFS population generally consists of persons aged 15 years and over living in private households, with definitions aligned with those provided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

When analysing regional information from the LFS, it is important to bear in mind that the information presented relates to the region where the respondent has his/her permanent residence and that this may be different to the region where their place of work is situated as a result of commuter flows.

Eurostat‘s unemployment statistics follow guidelines provided by the ILO: an unemployed person is defined as someone aged 15 to 74 years who is without work, but who has actively sought employment in the last four weeks and is available to begin work within the next two weeks. The unemployment rate is defined as the number of unemployed persons expressed as a percentage of the total labour force (the sum of employment and unemployment).

The youth unemployment rate is defined as the share of unemployed people aged 15-24 years, expressed in relation to the total labour force of the same age. It is important to note that a relatively high proportion of people aged 15-24 years are outside the labour market as they study full-time.


The European employment strategy (EES) dates back to 1997. Its main aim is the creation of more and better jobs throughout the EU; it is implemented through the European semester. The ‘Employment package — towards a job-rich recovery’ (COM(2012) 173 final) was launched in April 2012 to identify the areas in the EU economy with the greatest jobs potential.

In April 2013, the European Council agreed on a Youth guarantee that provides a commitment to ensure that all young people under the age of 25 years receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship, or a traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education. Data released at the end of April 2019 suggest that more than 14 million young people across the EU have taken up an offer of employment, education, traineeship or apprenticeship since 2014.

In December 2016, the European Commission proposed a Communication Investing in Europe’s youth, based on three distinct actions: better opportunities to access employment (extending the Youth guarantee); better opportunities through education and training (by establishing a modern apprenticeship system); better opportunities for solidarity, learning mobility and participation (through expanding the budget for Erasmus+).

Aside from promoting the labour market position of young persons, the EU has also introduced a range of complementary measures designed to support labour markets in a broader context, among which:

The European Commission’s priorities for 2019-2024 highlight the desire to develop a social market economy that works for people, by promoting fairness and prosperity. Some of the principal challenges outlined by President von der Leyen include: fully implementing the European pillar of social rights; ensuring that every worker has a fair minimum wage; promoting a better work-life balance; tackling gender pay gaps and other forms of workplace discrimination; getting more disabled people into work; and protecting citizens who are made unemployed.

EU cohesion policy provides support for employment and long-term growth in Europe. Expenditure is made in various labour market areas that are designed to boost employment and labour mobility. The European Social Fund (ESF) is the principal cohesion policy fund supporting employment and labour mobility initiatives in the EU, while the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) may be used to improve conditions for job creation. EU cohesion policy also supports labour market reforms that promote equal opportunities for all, in particular, those for women, young and old workers, or ethnic minorities.

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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)
Unemployment rate by NUTS 2 regions (tgs00010)
LFS series - Specific topics (t_lfst)

Regional labour market statistics (reg_lmk)
LFS series - detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
Employment - LFS series (lfsa_emp)
LFS series - Specific topics (lfst)
LFS regional series (lfst_r)
Regional employment - LFS annual series (lfst_r_lfemp)
Regional unemployment - LFS annual series (lfst_r_lfu)

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This article forms part of Eurostat’s annual flagship publication, the Eurostat regional yearbook.