Labour market analysis for the first quarter of 2020 2020-06-23

Compared to the same period of 2019, the salaried employment during the first quarter of 2020 has dropped both in terms of the number of jobs (-0.6%) and the volume of work in full-time equivalents (FTE) (-2.2%). This evolution is the direct result of the coronavirus crisis and of the related measures introduced as from the midst of March.

In relation to the expected tendency the coronavirus crisis has caused a total loss of volume of work amounting to between 100,000 and 115,0000 full-time equivalents. Indeed, with an extrapolation of the preceding quarterly periods, we would have come without the coronavirus crisis to a growth between 1 and 1.5% or between 30,000 and 45,000 FTE. A volume of work of 100,000 full-time equivalents corresponds approximatively to the volume of work that would have been done by 600,000 full-time workers during the two last weeks of the month of March (= 1/6th of the quarter).

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 tie 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 results in the sectors making use of a large number of very temporary contracts (temporary employment sector, horeca sector, …) in an immediate decline of the number of jobs. As these very temporary jobs (such as the flexi-jobs in the horeca 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). For the first quarter of 2020, a slight increase compared to the first quarter of 2019 is registered both for the number of jobs and the volume of work.  

Industry and building sector

Industry and the building sector are not part of the sectors that have been closed by the government. Nevertheless several undertakings have been fully or partially closed for a while, in the first place due to the need to adjust the working conditions to the health regulations.  

This only has a very limited impact on the number of jobs : +0.3% on an annual basis, whereas a number of +0.6% was still registered in the fourth quarter. However the volume of work in full-time equivalents has sharply declined from +0.2% to -4% on an annual basis. Especially the textile and clothing sector, the printing works, the production of electrical appliances, the production of means of transport, the furniture industry and the building industry have experienced a sharp downturn. .

Services sectors

In the commercial servicesa large number of sectors have been forced to a full or partial closure (horeca sector, sale and repair of cars, the non-food retail, the travel sector, the cleaning services). Unlike in the other sectors, there is due to the larger presence of workers with very short contracts a large impact on both the number of jobs (from +2.2% to -2.5%) and the number of full-time equivalents (from +1.6% to -3.7%). The fall is strongest in the aforesaid closed sectors and the temporary work sector. As far as the sectors are concerned that have been able to switch to a large extent to teleworking, there is little or no impact on employment. The evolution in the sector of the “Financial 

activities and insurance” remains negative as previously. The growth of  “Legal, accounting, business and technical services” and IT continues to be strong.

In the non-commercial services mostly the sectors “Education”, “Art, entertainment and recreation services, sports” and the “Other personal services” have been compelled to reduce or to cease completely their activities. However the impact is very limited in the government sectors with a large number of statutory jobs. Globally the increase in the number of jobs drops very slightly (from +1.3% to +1%). The drop of the volume of work in full-time equivalents is somewhat larger (from 1.4% to 0.2%).

Temporary work

The demand for labour through temporary work has dropped massively due to the full or partial closure of undertakings using temporary workers. At the end of March of 2020, 30% less jobs have been counted in the temporary work sector compared to the end of March of 2019 (-30% with blue-collar workers, -32% with white-collar workers). The volume of work in full-time equivalents has declined less strongly during the first quarter of 2020 (-8.3% ; -7.4% with white-collar workers, -8.9% with blue-collar workers) but merely due to the fact that the so-called coronavirus shock only has an impact on a limited part of the quarter. In the service voucher companies the activities have also been scaled back strongly at the end of March, leading to a drop of the volume of work in full-time equivalents by 13%.  

Employee profile

The decline in employment is stronger among male workers (-2.7% in volume of work) than among female workers (-1.6%) and is strongest in the youngest age groups.

The decline occurs almost completely in the private sector (from +1.4% to -3.4% in volume of work) and concerns in the private sector both the full-time jobs (-3.4% in volume of work) and the part-time jobs (-4.6% in volume of work). The employment in the public sector follows to a large largely the evolution registered during the preceding quarterly periods (+0.7% in terms of jobs and 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 (-1.9%), the Flemish region (-2.3%) and the Walloon region

More information

Rapid employment estimates (in French)

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