12 Apr 2022 - Two years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the unemployment rate in the OECD area fell to 5.2% in February 2022 (from 5.3% in January), dropping for the first time below the pre-pandemic rate recorded in February 2020 (see Figure 1) and reaching the lowest level since the start of this data series in 2001. The number of unemployed workers in the OECD area also continued to fall, reaching 34.9 million, 0.7 million below its pre-pandemic level.
“The latest drop in unemployment is a continuation of a positive trend and welcome news for OECD countries. However, with increasing global uncertainty and geopolitical tensions, we will continue to monitor the situation closely,” said OECD Chief Statistician Paul Schreyer.
The February decline in the OECD area unemployment rate was shared across both women and men as well as between younger workers aged 15 to 24 and workers aged 25 and above.
In the euro area, the unemployment rate fell further to 6.8% in February (from 6.9% in January), with declines of 0.2 percentage point or more in Finland, Greece, the Netherlands and Spain and a rise only in Estonia. The youth unemployment rate in the euro area fell also to 14.0% from 14.3% in January, continuing its downward trend.
The unemployment rate fell markedly in Canada, Korea, Sweden and Turkey, and more modestly in Australia, the United States and Japan. By contrast, it increased in Colombia, Czech Republic and Mexico. More recent data show that in March 2022 the unemployment rate further declined, by 0.2 percentage point, in the United States (to 3.6%) and Canada (to 5.3%, its lowest level since comparable data became available in 1976).
It should be noted that the unemployment rate conceals the extent of the unmet labour demand as some non-employed people may be “out of the labour force”, and hence not captured by the unemployment rate, either because they are not actively looking for a job or are not available to work.
Breaks between December 2020 and January 2021 for some EU Member States resulting from changes in the EU Labour Force Survey. These breaks can affect, to some extent, aggregates for the euro area and OECD Total.
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.
Link to underlying data - Source: Labour Force Statistics
1) Germany, Greece and Slovenia, which experienced a methodological break between December 2020 and January 2021 in their unemployment series, were excluded from the chart.
2) For Chile, Costa Rica and Norway change between February 2020 and January 2022; for the United Kingdom, change between February 2020 and December 2021; for New Zealand, change between fourth quarter 2019 and fourth quarter 2021; Switzerland, change between fourth quarter 2019 and third quarter 2021.