Statistics Explained

Key figures on the changes to the labour market

Data extracted in November 2022

Planned article update: February 2023

Highlights


Between Q2 2021 and Q2 2022, the employment rate for young people aged 15-29 not participating in education increased the most in Lithuania (+8.7 pp.), Spain (+7.3 pp.), Ireland (+6.8 pp.) and Greece (+6.1 pp.).
In the EU, among people who do not participate in education, the employment rate of people aged 15-29 (74.7 %) is 8.5 pp. lower than the employment rate of people aged 30-54 (83.3 %) in Q2 2022.


Key figures on labour market-1200x630 V2.jpeg

This article addresses the most significant changes in the labour market between the second quarter of 2021 and the second quarter of 2022, with a focus on the employment of young people.

This overview of the changes to the labour market aims to answer the following questions: is the increase in the employment rate the same for younger and older workers? Is the trend different for young people still in education compared to those not in education? Which occupations recorded the highest number of recent job starters?

The analysis is carried out for the European Union (EU) as a whole, for the 27 EU Member States individually, for three EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) and for one candidate country (Serbia). It makes use of non-seasonally adjusted quarterly data from the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS).

This article is part of the online publication Labour market in the light of the COVID 19 pandemic - quarterly statistics.


Full article

Disparate increase in employment

The population by labour status can be analysed using the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) data. A closer look at the various categories acting on the labour market shows that age, sex as well as level of education are key factors for employment analysis but are important also for unemployed people or those outside the labour force.

In Q2 2022, 7 out of 10 persons aged 15-64 (70.0 %) are employed in the EU, 4.5 % are unemployed and 25.4 % are outside the labour force. The employment rate in Q2 2022 varies significantly among the different population groups as shown in Figure 1: 52.4 % of men and 46.5 % of women aged 15-29 are employed against 88.4 % of men and 77.5 % of women aged 30-54, and 68.7 % of men and 56.2 % of women aged 55-64. In general, the older the people, the larger the employment gap between men and women. Looking at unemployment, the highest share expressed in percentage of the population is found among young men aged 15-29 (6.3 %) and the lowest among women aged 55-64 (2.9 %). Furthermore, almost half of men and women aged 15-29 are outside the labour force against 7.4 % of men and 17.9 % of women aged 30-54, and 27.9 % of men and 41.0 % of women aged 55-64.

The level of education also affects significantly the employment rate. Figure 1 also compares people aged 30-64 by level of education and labour status in the EU. People with a low level of education report the lowest employment rates in Q2 2022: 69.1 % of men and less than half of women are employed (46.0 %). People with a medium level of education follow, with 83.7 % employed men and 71.2 % employed women. The highest shares are recorded among men and women with a high level of education, with 91.0 % and 85.5 % respectively. It is worth noting that the large differences observed in the male and the female employment rates are also clearly visible in the shares of men and women outside the labour force while the shares of unemployed men and unemployed women are much closer.

Figure 1: Population by labour status, sex, age group and level of education, EU, Q2 2022
(in % of the total population of each category)
Source: Eurostat LFS ad-hoc extraction

Between Q2 2021 and Q2 2022, the employment rate increased more for younger people aged 15-29 (+2.4 pp. for women and + 2.6 pp. for men) than for older people, who recorded increases from 1.4 pp. (reported by men aged 30-54) to 2.2 pp. (women aged 55-64).

Another relevant finding is that the increase in the employment rate of young people and in the employment rate of men aged 30-54 is accompanied by a significant decrease in the share of people outside the labour force and in the share of unemployed people. This is less the case for people aged 55-64 and for women aged 30-54 but to a lesser extent, for which the increase in employment rate is mainly linked with a decrease in people outside the labour force.

Moreover, among people aged 30-64, the increase in the employment rate from Q2 2021 to Q2 2022 is more pronounced for those with a low level of education (+2.2 pp. for men and +1.9 pp. for women) than among people with a higher level of education. In particular, men and women with a high level of education recorded the lowest increases, +0.6 pp. and +1.3 pp. respectively.

Figure 2: Trend in the population by labour status, sex, age group and level of education, EU, Q2 2022 compared to Q2 2021
(in pp.)
Source: Eurostat LFS ad-hoc extraction


At national level (see Figure 3), the employment rate of people aged 15-64 is the highest in the Netherlands (81.8 %), Sweden (77.6 %), Malta (77.5 %) and Germany (77.3 %). By contrast, less than two thirds of people aged 15-64 are employed in Italy (60.5 %), Greece (61.1 %), Romania (63.5 %), Spain (64.8 %), Croatia (64.9 %) and Belgium (66.0 %). In particular, some relevant details by age:

  • For people aged 15-29: less than 40 % are employed in Greece, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria, while more than two thirds are employed in Malta (69.7 %) and the Netherlands (79.7 %). The next section of this article focuses on this specific age group and investigates the impact of the participation in formal education on the employment status.
  • For people aged 55-64: less than half are employed in Romania (46.7 %), Luxembourg (48.0 %) and Croatia (49.1 %), while more than 73 % are employed in Sweden (76.8 %), Germany (73.6 %) and the Netherlands (73.2 %).
Figure 3: Employment rate by age and country, Q2 2022
(in % of the total population of each age category)
Source: Eurostat LFS ad-hoc extraction


Youth employment and participation in formal education

As seen in the previous section, people aged 15-29 record the highest increases in the employment rate over the 1-year period between Q2 2021 and Q2 2022. Therefore, it is worth looking at the differences between employed young people participating in formal education and those not participating in formal education.

Similar employment rates for men and women aged 15-29 participating in formal education in Q2 2022

Figure 4 provides an overview of the total population of people aged 15-29 at EU level in Q2 2022. This figure shows that 51.0 % of young people (aged 15-29) are in formal education (36.2 million).

Among those who are in formal education, the proportion of employed people varies significantly according to the educational attainment level but is very close for men and women:

  • around 15 % of people in formal education who have attained a low level of education (16.3 % for men and 13.9 % for women),
  • around 30 % of those with a medium level of education (30.7 % for men and 30.4 % for women) and,
  • around 53 % of those with a high level (52.5 % for men and 53.8 % for men)

are employed.

The picture differs when looking at young people not in formal education in Q2 2022. For all categories, the employment rate of men is higher than the employment rate of women:

  • more than half of men with a low level of education (56.3 %) are employed compared with slightly more than one third of women in the same situation (37.6 %),
  • among those with a medium educational attainment level, young men recorded an employment rate of 82.6 % against 71.4 % for women,
  • 89.3 % of men and 86.1 % of women with a high level of education are employed.

It is also clearly visible that for those not participating in education, the male population in the EU with a low or medium educational attainment level is larger than the female population with the same level of education while the female population with a high level of education is larger than the male population.

For both groups - those participating and those not participating in formal education - the higher the level of educational attainment, the higher the employment rate for both men and women. However, the employment gap between both sexes is more pronounced, for all levels of education, among people not in formal education.

Figure 4: People aged 15-29 by participation in formal education, sex, educational attainment level and labour status, EU, Q2 2022
(in millions)
Source: Eurostat (LFS ad-hoc extraction)


In the EU, 3 in 4 people aged 15-29 who are not in formal education are employed in Q2 2022

At EU level, regardless the level of education, 74.7 % of young people aged 15-29 and not in formal education are employed in Q2 2022 against 25.2 % for those who are in formal education. As clearly visible in Figure 5, the employment rate of people aged 15-29 not participating in formal education is the highest in Malta, the Netherlands and Sweden, all recording a rate between 86 % and 88 %, while less than two thirds are employed in Italy, Romania and Greece. Furthermore, the employment rate of young people in formal education varies significantly from one country to another and to a larger extent than the employment rate of people who are not in formal education. In Q2 2022, it ranges from the highest levels in the Netherlands (74.0 %), Denmark (51.0 %), Finland (49.0 %), Germany (43.8 %) and Austria (40.6 %) to less than 6 % in Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.

Between Q2 2021 and Q2 2022, the employment rate increased from 71.6 % to 74.7 % for those who are not in formal education (+3.1 pp.) and from 22.8 % to 25.2 % (+2.4 pp.) for those who are in formal education.

Over this period, Lithuania, Spain, Ireland, Greece and Italy recorded the largest increases in the employment rate of young people aged 15-29 and not in formal education (ranging from +8.7 pp. to +6.0 pp.), while Slovenia, Romania, Finland and Czechia recorded a decrease ranging from -5.4 pp. to -0.4 pp.

Concerning young people in formal education, the largest increases are registered by Ireland (+8.0 pp.), Finland (+4.7 pp.), the Netherlands and Lithuania (both, +4.5 pp.) and Cyprus (+4.2 pp.). In contrast, three EU countries registered a decrease in the employment rate of young people in formal education, namely Luxembourg (-5.1 pp.), Malta (-3.0 pp.) and Belgium (-0.3 pp.).

Figure 5: Employment rate of people aged 15-29 by participation in formal education and by country in Q2 2021 and Q2 2022
(in % of total population in each category)
Source: Eurostat LFS ad-hoc extraction


In Slovenia, the employment rate of those not participating in formal education is almost 16 pp. lower for people aged 15-29 than for people aged 30-54

Furthermore, comparing the employment rates of people not participating in formal education aged 15-29 with those aged 30-54 gives an idea about the level of integration of young people in the labour market. At EU level, the difference between both categories reaches 8.5 pp. in Q2 2022, with people aged 30-54 having an employment rate of 83.3 % and those aged 15-29 of 74.7 %. As shown in the map below (Figure 6), the smallest differences between the two employment rates among EU countries is recorded in the Netherlands, the only country where the employment rate of young people slightly exceeds the employment rate of people aged 30-54 (with 0.3 pp. of difference). Malta and Ireland follow: the employment rate of people aged 15-29 is respectively 0.3 pp. and 2.0 pp. lower than the rate of people aged 30-54. By contrast, in Slovenia, Romania, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece, the proportion of employed people not in education is significantly lower for the age group 15-29 than for those aged 30-54 (with a difference of 11.5 pp. or more).

Figure 6: Employment gap between people aged 15-29 and 30-54 not in formal education
Source: Eurostat LFS ad-hoc extraction


3.9 million young people have started a job

8.5 million people aged 15-59 are recent job starters in the EU in Q2 2022. Recent job starters are employed people who reported having started their current job in the last 3 months before the interview. Splitting this number by age groups - 15 to 29, 30 to 44 and 45 to 59 - the most significant part, 46.1 % or 3.9 million, results being young people aged 15-29.

Figure 7 shows the distribution of recent job starters by age and occupational group (ISCO-08) for the second quarter of 2022 in the EU. The largest proportion, 23.8 %, of all recent job starters in the age group 15-59 have started a job as service and sales workers. People starting a job with a profession in the category of elementary occupations follow with 16.8 %. Elementary occupations involve the performance of simple and routine tasks which may require the use of hand-held tools and considerable physical effort. Professionals come third covering the 15.7 % of recent job starters. By contrast, managers (2.3 %) and skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers (1.9 %) cover the smallest proportions among recent job starters.

Regarding the repartition by age, young people aged 15-29 represent the greatest proportion of recent job starters in all occupational groups with managers being the only exception. The proportion of young people reaches 55.9 % of all service and sales workers aged 15-59 who have started their job in the last 3 months.

Figure 7: Distribution of recent job starters by age and occupational group (ISCO-08), EU, Q2 2022
Source: Eurostat (ad hoc extraction from LFS)


Source data for tables and graphs

Methods and definitions

All figures in this article are based on non-seasonally adjusted quarterly results from the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS).

Data sources

Source: The European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) is the largest European household sample survey providing quarterly and annual results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over as well as on persons outside the labour force. It covers residents in private households. Conscripts in military or community service are not included in the results. The EU-LFS covers the same target populations and uses the same definitions in all countries, which means that the results are comparable between the countries. The EU-LFS is an important source of information about the situation and the trends in the national and EU labour markets. Each quarter around 1.8 million interviews are conducted throughout the participating countries to obtain statistical information for some 100 variables. Due to the diversity of information and the large sample size, the EU-LFS is also an important source for other European statistics like Education statistics or Regional statistics.

Coverage: The results from the survey currently cover all European Union Member States, the EFTA Member States Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, as well as the candidate countries Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. For Cyprus, the survey covers only the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

In the analysis by economic activity and occupational group, only those activities and groups with more than 100 thousand employed people at EU level are taken into account.

European aggregates: EU and EU-27 refer to the totality of the EU of 27 Member States. If data are unavailable for a country, the calculation of the corresponding aggregates takes into account the data for the same country for the most recent period available. Such cases are indicated.

Country notes

In the Netherlands, the 2021 LFS data remains collected using a rolling reference week instead of a fixed reference week, i.e. interviewed persons are asked about the situation of the week before the interview rather than a pre-selected week.

Definitions

The concepts and definitions used in the EU-LFS follow the guidelines of International Labour Organization (ILO). In particular, employed people comprise: (a) persons who during the reference week worked for at least one hour for pay or profit or family gain; (b) persons who are not at work during the reference week but had a job or business from which they are temporarily absent.

The LFS employment concept differs from national accounts domestic employment, as the latter sets no limit on age or type of household, and also includes the non-resident population contributing to GDP and conscripts in military or community service but excludes the resident population working for non-resident enterprises.

More information

More information on the LFS can be found via the online publication EU Labour Force Survey, which includes eight articles on the technical and methodological aspects of the survey. The EU-LFS methodology in force from the 2021 data collection onwards is described in methodology from 2021 onwards. Detailed information on coding lists, explanatory notes and classifications used over time can be found under documentation.

Context

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe in January and February 2020, with the first cases confirmed in Spain, France and Italy. COVID-19 infections have been diagnosed since then in all European Union (EU) Member States. To fight the pandemic, EU Member States took a wide variety of measures. From the second week of March 2020, most countries closed retail shops, with the exception of supermarkets, pharmacies and banks. Bars, restaurants and hotels are also closed. In Italy and Spain, non-essential production is stopped and several countries imposed regional or even national lock-down measures which further stifled economic activities in many areas. In addition, schools are closed, public events are cancelled and private gatherings (with numbers of persons varying from 2 to over 50) banned in most EU Member States.

The majority of the preventive measures are initially introduced during mid-March 2020. Consequently, the first quarter of 2020 was the first quarter in which the Labour Market across the EU was affected by COVID-19 measures taken by Member States.

In the following quarters of 2020, as well as 2021, the preventive measures against the pandemic are continuously relaxed and re-enforced in accordance with the number of new cases of the disease. New waves of the pandemic began to appear regularly (e.g. peaks in October-November 2020 and March-April 2021). Furthermore, new strains of the virus with increased transmissibility emerged in late 2020, which additionally alarmed the health authorities. Nonetheless, as massive vaccination campaigns started all around the world in 2021, people began to anticipate improvement of the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The quarterly data on employment allows regular reporting of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis on employment. In the publication Labour market in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a specific article depicts employment in general and specifically by gender, age and level of educational attainment while another article focuses on employed people and job starters by sector of economic activity and occupation.

However, in this exceptional context of the COVID-19 pandemic, employment and unemployment as defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) are 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 are not available due to the containment measures, thus not counting as unemployed. Only referring to unemployment might consequently underestimate the entire unmet demand for employment, also called the labour Market slack.

The three indicators supplementing the unemployment rate presented in this article provide an enhanced and richer picture than the traditional labour status framework, which classifies people as employed, unemployed or outside the labour force, i.e. in only three categories. The indicators create ‘halos’ around unemployment. This concept is further analysed in a Statistics in Focus publication titled "New measures of labour market attachment", which also explains the rationale of the indicators and provides additional insight as to how they should be interpreted. The supplementary indicators do not alter or put in question the unemployment statistics standards used by Eurostat. Eurostat publishes unemployment statistics according to the ILO definition, the same definition as used by statistical offices all around the world. Eurostat continues publishing unemployment statistics using the ILO definition and they remain the benchmark and headline indicators.

Direct access to

Other articles
Tables
Database
Dedicated section
Publications
Methodology
Visualisations





LFS main indicators (lfsi)
Unemployment - LFS adjusted series (une)
Supplementary indicators to unemployment - annual data (lfsi_sup_a)
Supplementary indicators to unemployment - quarterly data (lfsi_sup_q)
LFS series - Detailed annual survey results (lfsa)
Total unemployment - LFS series (lfsa_unemp)
Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and age (lfsa_sup_age)
Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and educational attainment level (lfsa_sup_edu)
Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and citizenship (lfsa_sup_nat)
LFS series - Detailed quarterly survey results (lfsq)
Total unemployment - LFS series (lfsq_unemp)
Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and age (lfsq_sup_age)
Supplementary indicators to unemployment by sex and educational attainment level (lfsq_sup_edu)

Methodology

Publications

ESMS metadata files and EU-LFS methodology