Latest unemployment figures are ‘slightly less favourable’

Latest unemployment figures are ‘slightly less favourable’
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The monthly indicators from Belgium’s Labour Force Survey for July show slightly less favourable results after positive changes the month before, according to Statbel, the Belgian statistical office.

The employment rate for people between the ages of 20 and 64 slightly decreased to 70.4 percent, and the unemployment rate increased again to 7.1 percent.

“Based on provisional results from the Labour Force Survey, the employment rate of people aged 20-64 is estimated in July at 70.4 percent,” Statbel announced.

“This is a slight decrease compared to the month before, when the employment rate was, with 71.0 percent, the highest level achieved since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Figures from the coming months will prove whether this is a one-off increase or indicative of a more lasting shift.

Samples on which the monthly figures are based are much smaller than those for the quarterly figures, so they’re subject to greater fluctuations.

Data from Statbel. Note: calculating the sum of all regions resulted in identical numbers to the total in all months shown with the exception of April 2021, whose listed total is 315,546 while the sum of all regions is 315,547.

The amount of people working from home decreased in July following the relaxation of rules regarding mandatory telework.

“In the month of July, we see for the first time a clear impact of the relaxation of the recent governmental teleworking obligation,” Statbel reported.

“The share of the working population that sometimes or usually works from home is estimated at 37.4 percent in July.”

The decrease was mainly among employees, 32.2 percent of whom worked from home in July compared to over 40 percent in the first half of 2021.

The summer holidays were also reflected in the figures: many employed people reported not having worked at times due to leave, vacations or public holidays.

The average weekly working time showed evidence of this, dropping from 33 hours a week in June to 23.8 hours in July.

Meanwhile, the number of temporarily unemployed remained at more or less the same level as in the previous month, with 43,000 people temporarily unemployed for part of the reference week and around 10,000 for all of it.

Figures from 2021 aren’t generally comparable to years prior due to a new European framework that came into force at the start of the year, which states that people who are temporarily unemployed for longer than three months aren’t counted among the employed, but rather as unemployed or inactive depending on how they answer survey questions.

“In order to illustrate the impact of this changed treatment of the long-term temporarily unemployed,” explained Statebel, “we calculate, in addition to the official employment rate, an alternative employment rate, whereby the long-term temporarily unemployed are, as before, classified as employed persons.”

The gap between the official and alternative employment rates has been narrowing, but Statbel says that if all long-term temporarily unemployed people were counted as employed, the employment rate of 20-64 year-olds would actually be slightly higher, at 70.7% in July.

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