Hours worked, EU and UK Covid-19 edition.
Measuring the labor market and understanding labormarket data has recently been more of a challenge than usual. An large number of people seem to leave the official labor market, rendering unemployment data less useful. Also, a large number of new arrangements influence who are counted as unemployed or as workers. The best and at this point of time the most useful data we have might be data on total hours worked. Which, for the EU and the UK, show a pitiful sight. It resembles half of a war economy.
Many sectors of the economy are curtailed, leading to large declines in hours worked. The other half of a war economy, employing the redundant people, is absent. True, employing people as soldiers or producers of weapons of destruction is a terrible thing. but in the war against Covid they could however have been employed producing PPE, air filters, UV lamps or as trackers and tracers, combatting the virus. Or to care for the sick or the isolated. We didn’t do this – at least not to the extent needed.
Differences between countries are large. The decline varies from minus 26% in Spain to around minus 3% in Sweden and Croatia.