Provisional OECD data point to significant rise in unemployment due to the COVID-19 shock

The measures put in place by national governments to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) are limiting the ability of national statistical offices to produce high quality statistics, including in the form of lower response rates. While data for most countries in this news release refer to a period before the pandemic started affecting the labour market, these limits are set to become more important in the next few months.

Unemployment rose sharply in most countries where data for March 2020 are already available, although official unemployment statistics in most OECD economies still pre-date the COVID-19 shock. Figures for February 2020 showed the OECD unemployment rate falling by 0.1 percentage point, to 5.0 %.

In March, in the United States, the unemployment rate (based on data for the week ending March 14) rose by 0.9 percentage point (to 4.4 %), with a sharper increase (from 7.7 % to 10.3 %) for youth (people aged 16 to 24) . In the intervening weeks, the situation has deteriorated further with the number of new claimants of unemployment benefits rising to 6.6 million in the week ending March 28; more than twenty times higher than during the week ending  March 14.

Similar complementary sources in other countries point to a similar deterioration. In Austria, the number of persons registering for work at the public employment service increase by more than two thirds in March. While in Norway, levels of registered unemployed at employment offices saw a fivefold increase.