Unemployment Rates, OECD – Updated 9 December

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9 Dec. 2020 – The OECD area unemployment rate continued to decline in October 2020, to 7.1%, from 7.3% in September, but remained about 2.0 percentage points above the level observed in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the labour market.

The unemployment rate decreased slightly faster among women (down to 7.2% in October, from 7.5% in September) than among men (down to 6.9%, from 7.1%) in OECD countries, narrowing the gap to 0.3 percentage point, from 0.9 percentage point in April. The OECD area unemployment rate for youth (people aged 15 to 24) fell to 14.4% (from 14.7% in September and well below its peak of 19.0% in April 2020).

Some care is needed in interpreting recent falls in the OECD unemployment rate, as this largely reflects the return of temporary laid-off workers in the United States and Canada, where they are recorded as unemployed[1], whereas temporary lay-offs are typically recorded as employed in most other countries.

In the euro area, the unemployment rate decreased marginally to 8.4% in October (remaining 1.2 percentage points above its February level), with decreases of 0.2 percentage point or more in France (to 8.6%), Latvia (to 8.0%), Luxembourg (to 6.5%) and Portugal (to 7.5%). By contrast, the unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage point in the Slovak Republic (to 7.0%) and Slovenia (to 4.9%).

Outside Europe, the unemployment rate decreased by 1.0 percentage point in the United States (to 6.9%), reflecting the decline in the number of people on temporary lay-off. The unemployment rate decreased by 0.3 percentage point in Colombia (to 16.3%), showed little changes in Canada (at 8.9%), Japan (at 3.1%) and Mexico (at 4.6%), but increased by 0.3 percentage point in Korea (to 4.2%). More recent data for November show that the unemployment rate declined further in the United States (to 6.7%) and Canada(to 8.5%).

Link to underlying data – Source: Labour Force Statistics‌‌

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Composition of the United States unemployment rate, Feb. 2020 - Nov. 2020

Source: OECD calculations, based on US Current Population Survey

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1. For Canada and the United States, the statistical treatment of persons on temporary layoff is different from other countries. See the note on the divergence in employment and unemployment statistics during the Covid-19 crisis on next page.

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