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Employment growing for first time since start of pandemic

Credit: Belga

The employment rate increased by 1.4% in June 2021 in comparison with January 2020, which marks the first growth in employment in Belgium since before the start of the coronavirus crisis.

In the first six months of this year, employment grew even more rapidly, by 4.3% in the first six months, whilst smaller companies (with fewer than 20 employees), are taking 8% more people on than before the pandemic, according to a recent analysis from HR services company Acerta.

“It is striking that the employment, on average across all sectors, is already higher than before the coronavirus crisis. That means that companies are finally hiring new employees again,” Nele Mertens, legal advisor at Acerta, said in a press release.

Based on data gathered from more than 30,000 companies, businesses in the construction sector and the food industry have increased most, by 4.1% and 3% respectively.

The only sectors in which employment levels haven’t gone back to pre-Covid levels or have decreased are the hotel and catering industry (-5.3%) and the metal and manufacturing industry (-4.9%).

Smaller companies also employed more people in June last year, but this was followed by a sharp drop of 6.2% in the number of new jobs in these businesses.

“Small businesses felt the impact of the corona crisis quicker. They often have a smaller (financial) buffer to absorb the damage, and therefore have to adapt and make decisions more quickly,” Mertens explained.

Mertens added that the fact that the government is now not only focusing on the survival of the economy, but is also encouraging increased employment, plays a big role in these figures.

“The government’s support measures have undoubtedly helped companies bridge the difficult period so that redundancies – for most companies anyway – have been kept to a minimum,” Mertens said.

“In the meantime, a ‘relaunch reduction’ has been announced for the third quarter, for all sectors, with the condition of reducing temporary unemployment or creating new jobs. The focus is therefore no longer just on job stability, but also on job growth,” she explained.