Labour market analysis for the third quarter of 2020 2020-12-22

Compared to the same period of 2019, the salaried employment rate during the third quarter of 2020 has dropped but the decrease has been more limited than during the previous quarter. In terms of the number of jobs, the decrease has remained limited, just as it was the case in the second quarter
(-0.7%). The decrease is now to a lesser extent the consequence of the reduction of very temporary jobs (horeca/catering industry, temporary work sector)  and is spread over a larger number of sectors.

The coronavirus crisis on the labour market is most of all alleviated by temporary unemployment; which  leads to a fall in the volume of work in full-time equivalents. This decrease amounted to -13.6% for the second quarter, whereas the decrease is much more limited (-2.7%) during the third quarter. Nevertheless the decrease still arises in a large number of sectors but there are fewer sectors that are confronted to a large downturn.  

Coronavirus crisis and labour market

The complete or partial closure of a whole lot of companies manifests itself principally in two ways on the labour market : temporary unemployment and the ending or not renewing of temporary contracts. These two phenomena are both visible in the figures, be it in another way.

In the case of temporary unemployment, the link between the worker and the employer is maintained but no work or only partial work is executed, which leads to a direct decrease of the volume of work in full-time equivalents.

When temporary contracts are ended or not renewed, this leads especially in the branches making use of a large number of very temporary contracts (temporary employment sector, catering sector, …) to an immediate decline of the number of jobs. As these very temporary jobs (such as the flexi-jobs in the catering sector) are often supplementary jobs, the drop of the number of employed workers is less pronounced. Moreover the loss of the volume of work of these jobs is rather limited.   

Agriculture, forestry and fishery

In agriculture and horticulture the salaried employment consists to a large extent in seasonal work (in the form of occasional work). Measures have been taken to maintain the supply of labour (which comes in ordinary times for more than 75% from abroad). The number of jobs have slightly increased (+0.5% compared to the third quarter of 2019) whereas the volume of work has increased to a stronger extent, amongst others due to an earlier harvest period (+10%).

Industry and building sector

Industry and the building sector were not part of the sectors that have been closed by the government during the first lockdown. Nevertheless several companies have been fully or partially closed for a while in this branch and there was actually a sharp drop of the volume of work in the second quarter of 2020. During the third quarter of 2020 the volume of work considerably recovered but remained under the level of the third quarter of 2019. The pharmaceutical industry has witnessed a growth and especially the textile and clothing industry and the sector of the production of means of transport have remained well below the level of 2019. The number of jobs have fallen globally, albeit to a limited extent  (-0.8%).

Services sectors

Especially in the commercial services a large number of sectors have during the first lockdown been forced to a full or partial closure (catering sector, sale and repair of cars, the non-food retail, the travel sector, the cleaning services). During the third quarter of 2020 a number of branches have been able to recover fully or partly. As a result the loss of the volume of work in full-time equivalents on an annual basis is much more limited in the third quarter of 2020 (-5%) than in the second quarter (-21%). In particular the catering industry (-23.4%) and the branch of the administrative and auxiliary services
(-8.3%), the last one especially due to the impact of the temporary work sector (-14%), have remained well below the level of the year 2019. Due to the larger presence of workers with very short-time contracts, one also notices a larger fall in the number of jobs in the commercial services (-2.1%). This drop is once again strongest in the catering industry (-9.7%) and in the administrative and auxiliary services (-3.2%). The evolution in the ”Financial activity and insurance“ sector remains negative as before.

In the non-commercial services, there is a slight increase in the number of jobs (+0.1%) and there is globally a limited decrease of the volume of work (-0.2%). This is principally due to the sectors  “Art, entertainment and recreation services, sports” and “Other personal services” which had to reduce or entirely stop their activities. In these sectors the volume of work was during the third quarter of 2020 respectively -11.4% and – 4.7 below the level registered in the year 2019. The impact is very limited in the government sectors (Public administration -0.5% and Education +1.3%) and in ʺHealth care and social servicesʺ (+0.4%).  

Temporary work

The demand for labour through temporary work has still remained considerably under the level of the year 2019. At the end of September 2020, 10% less jobs have been counted in the temporary work sector compared to the end of September 2019 (-10.8% for blue-collar workers, -9.3% for white-collar workers). The volume of work in full-time equivalents during the third quarter of 2020 has also fallen to a larger extent: -14.1% as a whole, -15.8% for blue-collar workers, -11.1% for white-collar workers. In the service voucher companies the activities have also recovered, whereas these have been  strongly reduced in the second quarter. The volume of work in full-time equivalents has fallen by -3.6%, compared to the third quarter of 2019.  

Employee profile

The decline in employment is somewhat stronger among male workers (-3.3% in volume of work) than among female workers (-2.0%) and is strongest in the youngest age groups (-8% among the young people under 25 years, -3.5% in the group of workers between 25 and 39 years).

The decline occurs almost completely in the private sector (-3.8% in volume of work) and concerns in the private sector both the full-time jobs (-3.7% in volume of work) and the part-time jobs (-3.2% in volume of work).

This drop applies to the population of the three regions and this mostly in terms of volume of work : the Brussels-Capital region (-5.3%), the Flemish region (-2.4%) and the Walloon region
(-2.8%).

More information

Rapid employment estimates (in French)

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