There are more and more unemployed. But working people too – The labor market

Despite the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and new restrictions on economic activity in the fourth quarter, employment in Poland was higher than a year earlier. Economists find it hard to believe.

In January, the registered unemployment rate rose to 6.5 percent. from 6.2 percent in December. This is its biggest increase since April, i.e. from the peak of the spring epidemic restrictions. However, such an increase in unemployment in January is a typical phenomenon. Seasonal fluctuations aside, the labor market is surprisingly healthy.

So good that economists wonder about the reliability of some indicators.

Pastel painting

The January spike in unemployment is easily linked to the paralysis of large parts of the economy with the second wave of Covid-19. In fact, however, it was a seasonal phenomenon. This indicator increased by 0.3 percentage points. compared to December, the same as in January of the previous four years. In absolute numbers, the January increase in unemployment was the smallest this year since at least 2000. As reported on Tuesday by the Central Statistical Office, only 44,000 new jobs were added to labor offices. unemployed. The situation on the labor market also seems to be improving year on year. There were 168 thousand unemployed in January. more than a year earlier, while in December by 180 thousand. more.

An even more pastel picture of the labor market emerges from the recent Labor Force Survey (LFS), the preliminary results of which were also published by the Central Statistical Office on Tuesday. In Q4 2020, the unemployment rate according to BAEL was 3.1%, compared to 2.9%. a year earlier and 3.3 percent. in Q3 The number of unemployed people (ie declaring that they do not have a job, but are actively looking for it; some people registered in labor offices as unemployed do not meet this definition) in Q4 amounted to 531 thousand, by 45 thousand. more than a year earlier.

Activating the elders

The stable situation on the labor market, despite the first recession in Poland since the beginning of the 1990s, proves the effectiveness of the government’s anti-crisis policy, which was aimed at maintaining employment.

However, some economists emphasize that unemployment indicators are not very precise measures of the economic situation in the labor market. Their growth could limit the outflow of some of the people who lost their jobs during the crisis to the group of economically inactive (i.e. those without work and not looking for it). This is evidenced by, for example, the statistics on the number of the insured at ZUS. In Q4, the number of people covered by health insurance (including the unemployed) was 38 thousand. lower than a year ago, and the number of people covered by accident insurance was as much as 177 thousand. smaller.

The LFS results, however, do not confirm the hypothesis that Poles became inactive as a result of the pandemic. On the contrary: in Q4, the economic activity rate (the percentage of people aged over 15 who work or are unemployed) amounted to 56.5%, down 0.5 percentage point. more than a year earlier. In the case of people of working age, it increased by 0.9 percentage points, to 78.1%. Therefore, it is not an effect of the decline in the Polish population due to the pandemic, because mainly people of post-working age died of Covid-19. Moreover, the BAEL data show that in Q4 the employment level increased significantly. 16.55 million people worked in Poland, the most since the third quarter of 2019. This means an increase by 0.5%. year on year and 0.3 percent. compared to Q3, which in terms of economic activity was clearly better than in the last months of the year.

Workers may disappear

– It seems that young people who most often worked in the service industries affected by the restrictions fall into professional inactivity. But at the same time, the professional activity of older people, also in retirement age, is increasing – assesses Andrzej Kubisiak, deputy director of the Polish Economic Institute. As she emphasizes, elders may have greater determination to work when their adult children have a problem with finding employment.

Kubisiak admits, however, that the picture of the situation on the labor market is ambiguous and the data should be approached with caution. Such an approach is justified, for example, by a significant revision of the LFS results for Q3 last year, as a result of which the number of employed persons increased by 0.2%. year on year turned into a decline of 0.6 percent. Every year. This means that over 130,000 jobs fell out of the group of employees. people.

According to Aleksander Łaszek, chief economist of the Civic Development Forum, the decrease in the number of people insured with ZUS, combined with the increase in the number of employed persons according to LFS, may indicate that some employment has moved to the shadow economy. – The labor market is still hibernated by anti-crisis shields. It is not known how the situation will change when the requirement to maintain employment expires by the companies that have benefited from these shields – emphasizes the economist.

In Kubisiak’s opinion, the calculations of the International Labor Organization (ILO) paint a relatively reliable picture of the situation on the Polish labor market in the pandemic. They show that as a result of the crisis, the number of hours worked in Poland decreased by 3.5%, while the EU average decreased by more than 8%, and in Germany, which has experience in stabilizing the labor market from the previous crisis, by 6.3 percent

Source: Rzeczpospolita

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