Statistics Explained

Employed people and job starters by economic activity and occupation


Data extracted in February 2022

Planned article update: October 2022

Highlights


In the third quarter of 2021, 4.1 million men and 3.9 million women in the EU had started a job within the last 3 months.
Service and sales workers represented the occupation with the largest share of recent job starters (23.5 %) in the third quarter of 2021.
In the third quarter of 2021, among EU Member States, Denmark (19.5 %) had the highest and Cyprus (5.2 %) the lowest share of employed people in human health and social work activities.
In the third quarter of 2021, the activity sector of accommodation and food services accounted for 12.3 % of recent job starters while only for 4.3 % of total employment.
Job starters - 03-03-2022 final.jpg

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent crisis led to more cautious policies from enterprises with regards to hiring new people. Furthermore, as one might expect, there was more reluctance by people to start new businesses, which could have led to more employment in other circumstances. This, among other reasons, caused a downward trend in employment rates in 2020. During 2021, especially in the second and third quarters, the labour market began to rally, following the partial or full relief from some of the anti-pandemic measures taken to combat the spread of the disease.

The objective of this article is to study the employment dynamics by looking at the people who have started their job recently. Recent job starters (new or recently employed people) are defined as people who reported that they started their current job in the last 3 months before the interview. Findings on this sub-population of employed people are presented for different sectors of the economy (NACE Rev. 2) and groups of occupation (ISCO-08). Hereby, conclusions can be drawn on which economic sectors and occupations expanded or stagnated in terms of hiring or attracting new people.

Results are based on the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) quarterly results, mainly for the third quarter of 2021. The European and country approaches are presented, in order to show the employment dynamics at global EU level and national level in the individual Member States, as well as in two EFTA countries (Iceland and Switzerland) and one candidate country (Serbia).

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


Full article

Quarterly development for the recent job starters

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the total number of recent job starters began to show a significant and unprecedented decline, to reach only 5.0 million people in Q2 2020 at EU level (see Figure 1). Then, in Q3 2020, the number of recent job starters started an upward trend to return close to, or even exceed, the pre-pandemic level (7.5 million in Q4 2019) with 7.4 million in Q2 2021 and 8.0 million in Q3 2021. Note that data are seasonally adjusted but a break in the series exists between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 due to a change of regulation for data collection (see the methodological notes at the bottom of the article).

Figure 1: Recent job starters by sex, Q1 2009 - Q3 2021
Source: Eurostat (lfsi_sta_q)


Figure 1 also shows that there were always less women than men among the recent job starters. However, when the pandemic hit the labour market hardest in 2020, the gender gap almost disappeared. In 2021, male recent job starters amounted to 3.7, 3.8 and 4.1 million and female recent job starters to 3.4, 3.6 and 3.9 million in Q1, Q2 and Q3 2021 respectively.

Nevertheless, from Q2 to Q3 2021, the increase in the number of recent job starters was higher in relative terms for women (+9.3 %) than for men (+5.6 %)(see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Quarterly changes in the number of recent job starters, Q3 2021 compared with Q2 2021
Source: Eurostat (lfsi_sta_q)


Still using seasonally adjusted data, the number of recent job starters increased from Q2 2021 to Q3 2021 in 23 EU Member States, with the highest increases recorded in Greece (+60.3 %), Latvia (+45.0 %), Cyprus (+41.9 %) and Czechia (+28.8 %). At the same time, the number of recent job starters decreased in Croatia (-21.7 %), Malta (-9.5 %), Romania (-6.4 %) and Bulgaria (-3.8 %).

The increase in the number of recent job starters in Greece, Czechia, Cyprus, and Latvia was primarily due to the substantially stronger increase for women than for men. As an example, the increase in Greece was in relative terms +85.9 % for women and +39.1 % for men.

Spotlight on economic activities

At EU level, during Q3 2021, some sectors of economic activity hired new people disproportionately compared with their employment size in the whole economy (see Figure 3). The greatest difference can be found in the sector of accommodation and food services, which accounted for 12.3 % of the recent job starters but only for 4.3 % of total employment. Conversely, the share of the industry sector was 18.2 % among employed people but only 13.0 % among the recent job starters.

Figure 3: Employed people and recent job starters by economic activity (NACE Rev. 2) in the EU
Source: Eurostat (lfsq_egdn2)


These imbalances resulted in a high disparity, among economic activities, of the share of recent job starters in employment, which ranged from 12.3 % in accommodation and food service activities to less than 4 % in the professional, scientific and technical activities (3.6 %), education (3.3 %), industry (3.1 %), financial, insurance and real estate activities (2.8 %) and public administration and defence (2.3 %) (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: Employed people and recent job starters by economic activity (NACE Rev. 2) in the EU
Source: Eurostat (lfsq_egdn2)


Figures 5 and 6 show the distribution of employed people and recent job starters by a selection of economic activities - industry, accommodation and food service activities, construction, human health and social work activities and wholesale and retail trade - which together represent roughly around half of the employment in most countries.

The profile of EU countries varies a lot according to the proportion of these sectors. One quarter or more of the total employed people worked in the industry sector in Czechia, Slovakia and Slovenia while this sector accounted for less than one tenth in the Netherlands, Cyprus and Luxembourg. Large differences were also found in the sector of human health and social work, where more than one in seven employed people in Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium and Sweden, but less than 7 % in Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria and Cyprus were working .

Figure 5: Employed people by selected economic activities (NACE Rev. 2) in Q3 2021
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)
Figure 6: Recent job starters by selected economic activities (NACE Rev. 2) in Q3 2021
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)


As observed at EU level, the distribution of recent job starters by economic activity was not the same as the distribution for employment in the EU Member States. These differences were most pronounced in the sector of accommodation and food service activities. Among all Member States with data available for this sector for both employed people and recent job starters (21 countries), the share of recent job starters in this sector was higher than the one for the employed population. The starkest example can be found in Greece, with 45.3 % of recent job starters and only 10.8 % of employed people in this sector. Croatia, Italy and Cyprus also stood out with significantly large differences (with 19.9 %, 20.9 % and 23.0 % of recent job starters, and 6.9 %, 6.5 %, and 7.5 % of employed people in this sector).

The construction sector in Romania (25.7 % of recent job starters versus 10.5 % of total employment), Lithuania (14.5 % versus 7.6 %) and Bulgaria (14.6 % versus 8.6 %) also recorded a higher share of recent job starters than of employed people.

By contrast, the industry sector attracted a smaller percentage of recent job starters in comparison with the size of this sector in total employment. This pattern can be observed in almost all EU countries with available data. This difference was the most obvious in Slovakia (17.1 % of recent job starters versus 27.5 % of employed people) and Bulgaria (12.5 % versus 22.1 %).

Spotlight on occupational groups

Similar to the sectors of economic activity, the distribution of recent job starters and the distribution of employed people by occupational groups show large differences between each other (see Figure 7). Service and sales workers represented 23.5 % of recent job starters but (only) 15.6 % of employment in Q3 2021 at EU level. Moreover, this occupational group was the largest among recent job starters whereas the third largest group among employment. In the same way, elementary occupations amounted for 16.1 % of recent job starters while (only) 8.3 % of employment, being the second largest group among recent workers.

The opposite situation was observed for the group of professionals, representing 21.4 % of employed people (the largest group in terms of total employment) but 16.0 % of recent job starters, being the third largest group among recent job starters.

Figure 7: Employed people and recent job starters by occupational group (ISCO-08) in the EU
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)


In terms of share of recent job starters in employment by occupation, recent job starters having an elementary occupation corresponded to the largest share in Q3 2021 at EU level, as they accounted for 8.4 % of employed people with an elementary occupation (see Figure 8). Service and sales workers (6.5 %), clerical support workers (4.3 %) and plant and machine operators and assemblers (4.2 %) followed, also with a high share of job starters in employment. In contrast, the group of managers (1.8 %) had the lowest percentages of recently employed people in Q3 2021.

Figure 8: Employed people and recent job starters by occupational group (ISCO-08) in the EU
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)


Looking at country-level data, the broad group of occupations “clerical support workers, service and sales workers” was more present among recent job starters than among employed people in almost all EU countries (comparing Figures 9 and 10). The largest difference was found in Greece, where this group represented 53.9 % of recent job starters but (only) 35.4 % of employment. In Cyprus, Czechia, Italy, Estonia, Croatia, Portugal and Ireland, this group also had a significantly larger presence among recent job starters than among total employment (a difference between both distributions of more than 10 percentage points).

Figure 9: Employed people by occupational group (ISCO-08) in Q3 2021
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)
Figure 10: Recent job starters by occupational group (ISCO-08) in Q3 2021
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)


In contrast, the broad group of "managers, professionals, technicians and associate professionals" was less present among recent job starters in almost all countries with available data. The difference was larger than 10 percentage points in 20 EU countries, and was the largest in Bulgaria, where this group accounted for 12.7 % of recent job starters but for 33.4 % of total employment.

Job permanency of the recent job starters

By looking at the job permanency of the recent job starters one can draw conclusions about the stability of their new jobs, which is a general measure of the quality of employment. Information on job permanency distinguishes between jobs under a contract with a limited duration (fixed-term job) or under a permanent contract without a fixed end (permanent job) and is available only for the main job of employees.

In Q3 2021, more than three-quarters of recent employees (job starters) in Spain (85.5 %), the Netherlands (85.0 %), Poland (80.4 %), Italy (78.4 %), Portugal (76.3 %) and Croatia (75.5 %) started a fixed-term job (see Figure 11). This share dropped to less than one third in Denmark (29.9 %), Latvia (27.2 %), Cyprus (26.4 %), Estonia (18.7 %) and Lithuania (16.1 %). Moreover, more than half of new employees in Poland (62.3 %), Croatia (60.2 %), France (51.7 %) and Greece (50.8 %) started a fixed-term job with a contract with a duration of fewer than 6 months, while this was the case for less than one-fifth of new employees in Germany, Ireland, Estonia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Lithuania and Cyprus.

Figure 11: Employees recent job starters by permanency of the main job, Q3 2021
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)


In almost all sectors of the economy in Q3 2021, the majority (more than 50 %) of new employees had been hired under a contract with a fixed-term duration (see Figure 12). The share of these people reached 84.5 % in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, and also exceeded two-thirds of all new employees in three other sectors of the economy (arts, entertainment and recreation; accommodation and food service activities and education). The only exception was the information and communication sector, where permanent contracts (50.5 %) represented a slightly higher share of new hires than fixed-term contracts (49.1 %). The highest share of contracts for less than 6 months was among new employees in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector (54.4 %), and the lowest in the sector of education (20.5 %).

Figure 12: Employees recent job starters by economic activity (NACE Rev. 2) and permanency of the main job, EU, Q3 2021
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)


At EU level, 57 % of new employees started a fixed-term job with a contract for less than 6 months, as 8 % of all new employees had a contract with a duration of less than one month, 23 % from 1 to less than 3 months, and 26 % from 3 to less than 6 months (see Figure 13). For 19 % of new employees, the duration of the job contract was from 6 to less than 12 months, whereas 13 % got a job contract for more than a year.

Figure 13: Employees recent job starters on fixed-term main job by duration of the contract, EU, Q3 2021
Source: Eurostat (Ad hoc extraction)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

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

Source: The European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) is the largest European household sample survey providing mostly 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 is based on the same target populations and uses the same definitions in all countries, which means that the results are comparable between countries.

Definitions: Recent job starters (new or recently employed people) are defined as people who reported that they started their current job in the last 3 months before the interview. Information on the methodological aspects in defining the year and month in which a person started working for the current employer or as self-employed in current main job, used in distinguishing the category of recent job starters, can be found on pages 167-169 of the latest explanatory notes.

European aggregates: EU refers to the sum of the EU-27 Member States. If data is unavailable for a country, the calculation of the corresponding aggregates is computed with estimates. Such cases are indicated.

Country note: (1) Spain and France have assessed the attachment to the job and included in employment those who have an unknown duration of absence but expect to return to the same job once the COVID-19 measures in place are lifted. (2) In the Netherlands, the 2021 quarterly 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.

Coverage: The industry sector encompasses ‘mining and quarrying’, ‘manufacturing’, ‘electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply’ and ‘water supply, including sewerage, waste management and remediation activities’; Information on the share of recent job starters is presented only for the sectors of the economy, which represent more than 1 % of employment.

Main methodological changes introduced in 2021 by Regulation (EU) 2019/1700:

  • persons on parental leave, and who are either receiving job-related income or benefits, or whose parental leave is expected to last 3 months or less, are counted as employed;
  • persons raising agricultural products for own-consumption are excluded from employment;
  • seasonal workers outside the season are classified as employed if they still regularly perform tasks and duties for the job or business during the off-season;
  • people with a job or business who were temporarily not at work during the reference week but with strong attachment to their job are still considered as employed. In the particular context of the COVID-19 crisis and the measures applied to combat it, national specificities exist in the assessment of the job attachment;
  • not employed people are considered searching for a job only if they use an active search method;
  • questions to collect information on the actual working hours have been harmonised across countries through the use of a common model questionnaire;
  • further harmonisation in the implementation of questions on different topics;
  • modernisation of the survey at national level.

More information on this point 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 while the one applicable until the 2020 data collection is presented in methodology until 2020. 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 have taken 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 were also closed. In Italy and Spain, non-essential production was stopped and several countries imposed regional or even national lock-down measures which further stifled economic activities in many areas. In addition, schools were closed, public events were 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 were 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 were continuously lightened 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 to regularly report on the impact of the crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic on employment. This specific article focuses on the employed people and job starters by sector of economic activity and occupation. Another article depicts employment in general and specifically by gender, age and level of educational attainment; it moreover provides results on the temporary contracts and part-time work and presents for the first time quarterly employment rates for the first and second generations of migrants.

Please note that 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 were 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, which is further analysed, with namely the evolution of the total volume of working hours, in the publication Labour market in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Direct access to

Other articles
Tables
Database
Dedicated section
Publications
Methodology
Visualisations




Methodology

Publications

ESMS metadata files and EU-LFS methodology