Unemployment Rates, OECD – Updated 8 December

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8 Dec. 2021 – The unemployment rate in the OECD area fell for the sixth consecutive month in October 2021, to 5.7% (from 5.8% in September), but at a slower pace than in previous months. It remained 0.5 percentage point above the pre-pandemic rate recorded in February 2020. The number of unemployed workers across the OECD area also continued to fall (by 0.2 million), reaching 38.3 million, still 2.8 million above the pre-pandemic level. The unemployment rate in the OECD area was stable among women (at 6.0%) and declined slightly among men (to 5.5%, from 5.6% in September). Unemployment also declined slightly among prime age and older workers aged 25 and above (down to 4.9%, from 5.0% in September), but edged up among younger people aged 15 to 24 (up to 12.1%, from 12.0%).

The fall in the OECD area unemployment rate when compared with the April 2020 peak should be interpreted with caution, as it largely reflects the return of temporary laid-off workers in the United States and Canada, where they are recorded as unemployed, unlike in most other countries, including European member states, where they are recorded as employed. In addition, methodological changes to the EU Labour Force Survey blur the comparison for several European Union countries between December 2020 and subsequent months[1]. Furthermore, the unemployment rate may conceal additional slack in the labour market as some non-employed people may be “out of the labour force”, either because they are not able to actively look for work or are not available to work.

In the euro area, there was another slight decrease in the unemployment rate in October (to 7.3%, from 7.4% in September), with the largest declines in Greece (to 12.9%, from 13.1%), Lithuania (to 6.5%, from 6.7%), Luxembourg (to 5.1%, from 5.3%) and the Netherlands (to 2.9%, from 3.1%). In contrast, the largest increases were observed in Austria (to 5.8%, from 5.2%) and Italy (to 9.4%, from 9.2%).

In October, the unemployment rate increased by 0.6 percentage point in Australia, to 5.2%, close to the pre-pandemic rate. It also increased in Colombia (to 13.0%, from 12.7% in September) and Korea (to 3.2%, from 3.0%), but declined in Canada (to 6.7%, from 6.9%), Israel (to 5.0% from 5.1%), Japan (to 2.7%, from 2.8%) and the United States (to 4.6%, from 4.8%). It was stable in Mexico (at 3.9%). More recent data show that in November, the unemployment rate declined further in Canada (by 0.7 percentage point, to 6.0%) and the United States(by 0.4 percentage point, to 4.2%).

Breaks between December 2020 and January 2021 for several EU Member States can affect aggregates for the euro area and OECD Total.

Link to underlying data – Source: Labour Force Statistics‌‌

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Composition of the United States unemployment rate

Source: OECD calculations based on US Current Population Survey

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