OECD area employment rate rose by 1.9 percentage points in the third quarter of 2020, but remained 2.5 percentage points below its pre-pandemic level

The OECD area[1] employment rate – the share of the working-age population with jobs – rose by 1.9 percentage points in the third quarter of 2020, to 66.7 %, following a fall of 4.4 percentage points in the second quarter due to COVID 19 containment measures. The latest rate thus remains 2.5 percentage points below the rate observed in the first quarter of 2020.

Some care is needed in interpreting the latest developments, as a large part of the increase in the third quarter reflects the return to work of furloughed workers in Canada and the United States, where they are recorded as unemployed, whereas they are recorded as employed in most other countries. Indeed, the sharp increase in the number of furloughed workers in the second quarter of 2020 had largely contributed to the fall in the employment observed in these two countries. In Canada and the United States, employment rates subsequently rose strongly in the third quarter (by 5.7 percentage points, to 70.4 %, and by 4.0 percentage points, to 66.4 %, respectively) and continued to increase, albeit at a slower pace, in the fourth quarter (by 1.7 percentage points, to 72.1 % and by 1.5 percentage points, to 67.9 %, respectively).

In the Euro Area, the employment rate increased to 66.8 % in the third quarter (from 66.3 % in the second quarter), but remained 1.3 percentage points below its level of the first quarter. Compared to the second quarter, increases of more than 1.0 percentage point were registered in Austria (to 72.7 %), Ireland (to 67.8 %), and Spain (to 60.7 %).

Among other countries, the highest quarterly increases in the employment rate in the third quarter were observed in Colombia (up by 5.7 percentage points, to 56.2 %), Turkey (up by 2.4 percentage points, to 47.8 %) and Iceland (up by 2.1 percentage points, to 81.7 %). While the employment rate increased in a majority of OECD countries, the rate was stable in Japan, at 77.1 %, and declined in the United Kingdom, to 74.2 % (from 74.8 % in the second quarter).

In the third quarter, the OECD area1 employment rate increased by 2.0 percentage points among women (to 60.3 %), and by 1.7 percentage points among men (to 73.1 %). The youth (aged 15 to 24) employment rate (up 2.7 percentage points, to 38.2 %) showed a stronger increase than rates for other age groups, but remained 3.7 percentage points below its level of the first quarter.