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Beyond the unemployment rate. An international comparison since the crisis

By Bruno Ducoudré and Pierre Madec

According to figures from the French statistics institute (INSEE) published on 12 May 2017, non-agricultural commercial employment in France increased (+0.3%) in the first quarter of 2017 for the eighth consecutive quarter. Employment rose by 198,300 in one year. Despite the improvement on the jobs front experienced since 2015, the impact of the crisis is still lingering. suite…»

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What is the initial assessment of Germany’s minimum wage?

By Odile Chagny (IRES) and Sabine Le Bayon

A year and a half after introducing a statutory minimum wage, the German Commission in charge of adjusting it every two years decided on 28 June to raise it by 4%. On 1 January 2017, the minimum will thus rise from 8.50 to 8.84 euros per hour. This note offers an initial assessment of the implementation of the minimum wage in Germany. We point out that the minimum wage has had some of the positive effects that were expected, helping to reduce wage disparities between the old Länder (former West Germany) and the new Länder (former East Germany), and between more skilled and less skilled workers. suite…»

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Unemployment: beyond the (good) figures from France’s job centre

Analysis and Forecasting Department (France team)

The 60,000 person decline in March for the number of people registered in Category A at France’s PĂ´le emploi job centre is exceptional. One has to go back to September 2000 to find a fall of this magnitude. There is some natural volatility in the monthly statistics for job seekers, but the fact remains that the trajectory has changed noticeably. In the last year, the number registered in Category A at the job centre rose by 17,000. A year earlier, from March 2014 to March 2015, the increase was 164,000. Better yet, over the last six months the number registered fell by 19,000. suite…»

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Matteo Renzi’s Jobs Act: A very guarded optimism

By CĂ©line Antonin

At a time when the subject of labour market reform has aroused passionate debate in France, Italy is drawing some initial lessons from the reform it introduced a year ago. It should be noted that the labour market reform, dubbed the Jobs Act, had been one of Matteo Renzi’s campaign promises. The Italian labour market has indeed been suffering from chronic weaknesses, including segmentation, a duality between employees with and without social protection, high youth unemployment, and a mismatch between costs and labour productivity. Renzi’s reform takes a social-liberal approach, advocating flexicurity, with the introduction of a new permanent employment contract with graduated protection, lower social charges on companies, and better compensation and support for the unemployed. Although the initial assessment is surely positive in terms of both unemployment and job creation, there’s no cause for hasty triumphalism: the reform has been implemented in especially favourable circumstances, marked by a return of growth, an accommodative policy mix, and a stagnating work force. suite…»

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Unemployment: an ambiguous fall, but an unambiguous rise in long-term jobless

Analysis and Forecasting Department (France team)

The unemployment figures for the month of January 2016 published by France’s PĂ´le Emploi job centre show a fall of 27,900 in the number of job seekers who are not working (category A), which follows an increase recorded in the month of December (+15,800). While this fall might seem encouraging (a decline of this magnitude has not been seen since 2007), it must be qualified. First, recent changes in administrative practices made by PĂ´le Emploi [1] have resulted in an abnormal increase in exits from the jobless rolls due to failures to update (239,000, against a monthly average of 207,000 in 2015). Second, the high volatility of the monthly figures in recent months is a sign of a labour market in which job creation is insufficient to reduce unemployment on a sustainable basis. suite…»

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2015: An eighth year of rising unemployment in France

Department of Analysis and Forecasting (France Team)

Since June 2015, the number of job seekers at the end of the month (the number of “DEFM”, in French) in Category A registered with PĂ´le Emploi has swung from month to month, rising and falling. This high volatility, which reflects a sluggish labour market in which there is insufficient job creation to make a long-term reduction in unemployment, is directly related to the sluggish growth in the French economy overall. So after a relatively favourable November 2015 (15,000 DEFM fewer in category A), December once again saw an increase in the number of unemployed (+15,800), offsetting the previous month’s fall. In addition, for the first time since May 2015, all age groups experienced an increase in the number of category A DEFM in December. suite…»

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The labour market: is the unemployment rate a good indicator?

By Bruno Ducoudré and Pierre Madec

Considering the euro zone on the one hand and the United States and the United Kingdom on the other, changes in unemployment rates are a reflection of the divergences in growth highlighted in our last fiscal year forecast. While between 2008 and late 2010, trends in unemployment reflected the sharp deterioration in growth and did not differ much between the euro zone, the UK and the USA, differences began to emerge from 2011. In the United Kingdom and the United States, unemployment has been falling since 2011, whereas, after a brief respite, a second phase of rising rates took place in most euro zone countries (Table 1). It was only more recently that the unemployment rate has really begun to fall in Europe (late 2013 in Spain and early 2015 in France and Italy). Overall, for the period 2011-2015 the rate rose overall (+2.7 points) in Spain. In Italy, this deterioration in the labour market even worsened (+4.5 points in this period, against +2.2 points from early 2007 to late 2010). France, though to a lesser extent, was not spared.

An analysis of the unemployment rate does not however convey the full dynamics at work in the labour market (Tables 2 and 3), in particular in terms of underemployment. Thus during the crisis most European countries reduced the effective working time [1] to a greater or lesser degree, through policies on partial unemployment, the reduction of overtime, or the use of working-time accounts, but also through the expansion of part-time work (especially in Italy and Spain), including on an involuntary basis. Conversely, the favourable trend in the US labour market is partly due to a significant decline in the participation rate, which stood in the first quarter of 2015 at 62.8%, 3.3 points lower than eight years ago.





In order to measure the impact of these adjustments (working time and participation rate) on unemployment, it is possible, subject to a number of assumptions [2], to calculate the unemployment rate at constant employment and control for these adjustments. Except for the United States, where the participation rate has fallen sharply since 2007, all the countries studied experienced an increase in their labour force (employed + unemployed) that was greater than in the general population; in many countries this was due to pension reforms. Mechanically, in the absence of job creation, the impact of this demographic trend is to push up the unemployment rate in the countries concerned. For instance, if the participation rate had remained at its 2007 level, the unemployment rate would be lower by 1.6 points in France and 1.1 points in Italy (Table 4). Conversely, without the significant contraction in the US labour force, the unemployment rate would have been more than 3 points higher than what was seen in 2015. Also note that since the crisis Germany has experienced a significant drop in unemployment (-4.2 points) even though its participation rate grew by 2.2 points. Assuming an unchanged participation rate, Germany’s unemployment rate would be 3.1% (Figure 1).

In terms of working time, the lessons seem quite different. It thus appears that if working time had been maintained in all the countries at its pre-crisis level, the unemployment rate would have been more than 3 points higher in Germany and Italy and about 1 point higher in France and Spain, countries in which working time decreased sharply only from 2011. In the US and UK, the situation is very different: working time has changed only very little since the crisis. By controlling for working time, the unemployment rate thus changes along the lines observed in the two countries.

The tendency for working time to fall is a familiar story. Since the late 1990s, all the countries studied have greatly reduced their working hours. In Germany, between 1998 and 2008, the reduction was on average 0.6% per quarter. In France, the transition to the 35-hour week caused a similar reduction over the period. In Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, the downward shifts in average working hours were respectively -0.3%, -0.4% and -0.3% per quarter. In total, between 1998 and 2008, working time fell by 6% in Germany and France, 4% in Italy, 3% in the United Kingdom and the United States and 2% in Spain, which was de facto the only country that during the crisis intensified the decline in working time that started in the late 1990s.







[1] Working time is understood here as the total number of hours worked by employees and the self-employed (i.e. total employment).

[2] It is assumed that, at constant use, a one-point increase in the participation rate leads to an increase in the unemployment rate. Employment and working time are not considered here in full-time equivalents. Finally, neither the “halo of unemployment” nor any possible “bending effects” are taken into account.


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The labour market on the road to recovery

By Bruno Ducoudré

A look at the figures just published by France’s PĂ´le Emploi job centre for the month of September 2015 shows that the number of job seekers who were registered and inactive (category A) has declined significantly (-23,800), following an increase in August (+20,000). While this is encouraging news, the decrease has to be compared with the increases seen in categories B and C (+25,600). So while employment has indeed picked up, this has not resulted in the numbers of people exiting unemployment as measured by the job centre, i.e. it has not put a stop to the continuing rise in the number of long-term unemployed (+10.4% in one year). Nevertheless, these trends do support the conclusions drawn from current analysis which indicate that a recovery has indeed begun. suite…»

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Still no halt to the rise in unemployment

OFCE Analysis and Forecasting Department

The unemployment data for the month of May once again show a rise in the number of job seekers registering at the PĂ´le Emploi job centre in Class A, up 16,200. Although this is certainly fewer than in April (26,200), it still leaves no glimpse on the horizon of a reversal in the unemployment curve. This continuous increase in unemployment, despite some initial shoots of recovery, is not surprising. The renewed GDP growth in the first quarter (+0.6% according to the detailed accounts published by the INSEE Thursday morning) has yet to have an impact on employment, which has stagnated. For the moment, companies are taking advantage of the pick-up in activity to absorb the excess labour they inherited from the crisis (in English see the post introducing this study). Only once the recovery has proved to be sustainable will an increase in employment translate into a reduction in unemployment. The time it takes employment to adjust to economic activity, i.e. about three quarters, does not point towards a turnaround in the labour market in the short term. suite…»

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A fall in the unemployment rate according to the ILO: the false good news

By Bruno Ducoudré and Eric Heyer

Two days following the announcement by France’s unemployment agency Pôle Emploi of an increase in Class A job seeker registrations in April, which comes on top of a first quarter increase, the INSEE statistics agency has published its estimate of the unemployment rate. Under the definition of the International Labour Office (ILO), the unemployment rate in metropolitan France fell by 0.1 point in the first quarter of 2015, meaning 38,000 fewer unemployed than in the fourth quarter of 2014. But according to Pôle emploi, over this same period the number of registered Class A job seekers rose by 12,000. In one case, unemployment is falling; in the other, it is rising: this does not make for a clear diagnosis of what’s happening with unemployment at the start of the year.

What accounts for the different diagnoses of the INSEE and PĂ´le Emploi? suite…»

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