An Analysis of Unemployment and Other Labor Market Indicators in 10 Countries

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An analysis of unemployment and other labor market indictors in 10 countries

Declining unemployment rates in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom contrast with record highs in Japan, France, and Italy during 1987; for the first time, employment ratios by sex are analyzed JOYANNA MOY

Unemployment rates declined in North America, Sweden and the United Kingdom during 1987, but rose in Japan, France, and Italy and remained historically high in Australia, Germany, and the Netherlands. The United States was the only country among the 10 studied in which jobless rates have fallen below their pre-1980-82 recession levels. During the second quarter of 1987, the U.S. unemployment rate declined markedly, and by December was 5.8 percent -- its lowest level in 7 years. (See table 1.)

In 1986, employment increased in all countries studied. Job growth accelerated in North America, Australia, Japan, Germany, and Italy, and resumed in France. In the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, employment growth tapered off. (See table 2.)

Employment continued to increase in all countries studied in 1987, but France and Italy, the level of jobs was stagnant. Data for 1987 indicate an acceleration of employment growth for the united Kingdom and Sweden, about the same rate of growth as in 1986 for the United States, Canada, and japan, and slowdowns in job creation for Australila, Germany, and the Netherlands.

This article compares unemployment, employment, and related labor market statistics in the United States and nine foreign industrial nations -- Canada, Australia, japan France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.1 It also intorduces comparative civilian employment-to-population ratios, by sex, and briefly discusses comparative unemployment rates published by two other organizations -- the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Statistical Office of the European Communities (EUROSTAT).

The foreign labor statistics have been adapted where necessary to correspond with U.S. definitions of employment and unemployment.2 Beginning with 1983, the measures presented here for Germany and the Netherlans reflect revised metods of adjusting their statistic for comparability with U.S. concepts. The new methods lower Germany's unemployment rate by less than one-half of a percentage point, but lower the Dutch rate by about 2 percentage points. This article also presents comparative figures for the United kingdom; the previous measures related to Great Britain only, which excludes Nothern Ireland. A discussion of these changes and other recent revisions in the Australian, Italian, and Swedish labor force surveys is included in the appendix.

Developments in umemployment

Over the last three decades, the relative unemployment rates among the countries studies have changed substantially. In 1960, North American jobless rates were the highest recordes, while rates in France and Germany were the lowest. The difference between the highest and lowest rates was about 5 1/2 percentage points. Fifteen years later, North American jobless rates were still the highest. French and German rates moved up to the middle of the array and Japanese and Swedish rates descended to the bottom. The range between the

highest and lowest rates widened to nearly 7 percentage points. In the early 1980's unemployment rose sharply in most of Western Europe. In the 1985-86 period, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom had jobless rates about 10 1/2 percent ot 11 percent, more than 3 percentage points above U.S. rate and about 8 percentage points above the rates in Japan and Sweden Germany's unemployment rate also rose above the U.S. rate.

The recovery from the recessions of the early 1980's began earlier in the United States and Canada than in Western Europe. Joblessness peaked at the end of 1982 in North America, while European unemployment rates continued to rise into, or even through, 1983. …