In the third quarter of 2020, 72.4% of people in the European Union (EU) aged between 20-64 years were employed, up 0.3 percentage points (pp) from the previous quarter (seasonally adjusted data). The third quarter of 2020 was characterized by the reduction in restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19 across many countries and a subsequent upturn in economic activity. However, the level of employment failed to return to the level before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (in the fourth quarter of 2019) when 73.1% of people were employed.

Young people did not recover as strongly as other age groups in terms of employment. Indeed, the employment rate for young people aged between 15-24 was 31.3% in the third quarter of 2020, a rise of just 0.1 pp from the previous quarter (and a decline of 2.0 pp from the fourth quarter of 2019). Employment of people aged between 25-54 was 79.8% in the third quarter of 2020 and rose by 0.4 pp from the previous quarter, but remained 0.8 pp lower than the fourth quarter of 2019. By contrast, the employment rate for people aged between 55-64 was 59.7%, up 0.5 pp from the previous quarter and also 0.1 pp higher than the fourth quarter of 2019.

Employment rate by age group​​​​​​​


Fewer people employed in elementary occupations

Looking into employment by occupation, the number of people employed in elementary occupations decreased by 8.9%, comparing the third quarter of 2020 with the same quarter of 2019 (non-seasonally adjusted data given the level of detail). The number of service and sales workers also fell (-6.7%), as did employment of plant and machine operators and assemblers (-5.7%) and managers (-5.1%). By contrast, the number of people employed as professionals and clerical support workers increased by 4.7% and 1.5% respectively.

Growth rate of employment by occupational group in the EU


For more information, take a look at the Statistics Explained articles on Employment - quarterly statistics and Employment in detail - quarterly statistics.


  • The category of elementary occupations involves the performance of simple and routine tasks that may require the use of hand-held tools and considerable physical effort. Craft and related trades workers apply specific technical and practical knowledge and skills to construct and maintain buildings; form metal; erect metal structures; set machine tools or make, fit, maintain, and repair machinery, equipment or tools; carry out printing work; and produce or process foodstuffs, textiles, wooden, metal and other articles, including handicraft goods. Professionals encompass people working as professionals in various domains: science and engineering, health, teaching, business and administration, information and communications technology, and finally, in legal, social, and cultural fields and generally with high skill level (see for further information the ISCO-08 structure).
  • The European Union (EU) includes 27 EU Member States. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. Further information is published here.
  • Eurostat provides two sets of indicators linked to the quarterly employment rate:
  1. The main indicators, which are seasonally adjusted, i.e. they refer to data for which the seasonal component has been removed (such as the influence of Christmas time, holidays, start or end of the school season, etc.). This allows bringing to the fore the underlying trends of a time series and comparing any quarter with any other quarter. These indicators have only a few breakdowns and normally refer to the age group 20-64.
  2. The detailed results, which are not seasonally adjusted. They encompass the variations due to seasonal specificities; this is the reason for which comparison is often made between identical quarters of previous years. They have a large number of breakdowns and can therefore be used for more detailed analysis.


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