Europe’s surprisingly good performance

A recession? A cost of living crisis? No, if we are to believe the good health of the employment market in Europe. The unemployment rate in the euro zone was 6.5% in November 2022, the lowest in its history. In France, it was 7%, according to Eurostat, the European statistical institute. You have to go back to… 1983 to find anything better.

Read also: The unemployment rate in France remained almost stable at 7.3% in the third quarter of 2022

Of course, the situation remains heterogeneous. Spain, which had been particularly affected during the eurozone crisis a decade ago, still shows unemployment at 12.4%. Greece remains at 11.4%. But the trend is everywhere for improvement. And a good part of the region is now close to full employment: unemployment of 3% in Germany, 3.6% in the Netherlands, 4.4% in Ireland…

The phenomenon is not specific to the euro zone. In the United States and the United Kingdom, unemployment is 3.5% and 3.7% respectively, again close to their historic lows. But these two countries hide more worrying phenomena: their rate of participation in the labor market has not returned to its level before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The “great resignation” in the United States

Clearly, many workers preferred to throw in the towel and leave the world of work. In the United States, some economists speak of the “great resignation”. In fact, these are essentially relatively old people, who have chosen to retire at the time of the confinements, or young people who have resumed their studies. In the United Kingdom, a large number of long-term sick people have been added to the statistics of the inactive in recent years, without the phenomenon being clearly explained.

In continental Europe, “we have managed to find more workers in a shrinking population”

None of that Continental Europe. “In three years, the population of working age − 25 to 64 years old − has fallen by one million in the euro zone, due to ageing, and yet the number of workers has increased by two million, points out Pawel Adrjan, economist at Indeed, a recruitment website. We managed to find more workers in a shrinking population. »

The trend had started before the pandemic. After the dark years of the euro zone crisis, which had caused unemployment to soar, the labor market had improved throughout the region. By 2017, the European employment rate had returned to the same level as that of the United States.

Partial unemployment in support of employment

Then, when the pandemic arrived, Europe stood out from the United States by supporting jobs (Partial unemployment…), where the Americans have preferred to give checks to individuals, rather than ways for companies to keep their employees. When the vaccines arrived, allowing a resumption of economic activity, the upheaval in Europe was less strong.

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