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Coronavirus and the European job market: developments between the first and second wave

The third quarter of 2020 saw the number of job advertisements posted online rise by almost 8 million compared to the second quarter, and just 2% below the 2019 levels. This development, identified using Cedefop’s skills OVATE system which monitors trends in online job markets across the EU, can be attributed to an improved epidemiological picture in most EU countries and more seasonal temporary jobs.

Particularly employers in the manufacturing sector felt more positive about future economic prospects and intensified their recruitment efforts.

Following the dramatic drop in online job advertisements in April 2020, the online job market gradually returned to modest growth in August and September with more jobs posted online compared to the previous year ( Figure 1). This trend turned out to be temporary, however, as the second Covid-19 wave and new lockdown measures sent the labour market into a new decline.

Figure 1: Online job ads in the EU (January-September, 2019-20 comparison, %)

Source: Cedefop skills OVATE. Own calculations.

Several countries saw a big improvement over the summer but trends varied across the EU. Portugal, Bulgaria and Cyprus had strong year-on-year growth in the third quarter. In Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands the situation remained depressed. In total, 13 EU Member States saw their online job markets grow, while 14 stayed in the red (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Trends in online job ads in EU Member States (July-September, 2019-20 comparison, %)

Source: Cedefop skills OVATE. Own calculations.

Sectoral trends

In Europe as a whole, only the manufacturing sector experienced a turnaround. In the third quarter of 2020, manufacturing enterprises bounced back, posting 78% more job advertisements compared to the previous year (Figure 3). Growth was relatively strong in Germany, Czechia, Portugal, Austria, Slovakia and Bulgaria, where manufacturing is struggling to replace retiring employees due to an insufficient supply of VET graduates skilled in technical trades. Skills shortages remain a big hurdle for economies in the wake of the pandemic.

Public administration and employment services are the hardest-hit sectors of European economy so far, with a decline of about -30% in the January-September period. The accommodation and food sector, transportation, and wholesale and retail trade, which were also hit hard in the second quarter, showed partial recovery during the summer. As the crisis contributed to significant restructuring, some employment cuts are likely to have a lasting impact on online job advertisements.

The trends in job ads posted by employment services, which include recruitment agencies, clearly show that temporary employment is sensitive to economic developments, reacting faster to them. As early as the first three months of the year, while most other sectors saw year-on-year growth or only a slight decline, the number of job advertisements posted by employment services was 30% lower than the previous year.

The patterns observed are also in line with increasing optimism about prospects after the first pandemic wave. In the third quarter, recruitment agencies started to post vacancies online faster than most other sectors, almost reaching 2019 levels. The growth of online job ads observed in manufacturing also reflects a more positive sentiment about the economic situation.  

Figure 3: Trends in online job ads in selected economic sectors (2019-20 comparison by quarter)

Source: Cedefop skills OVATE. Own calculations.

Throughout 2020, companies in the ICT services sector posted fewer online job advertisements than in 2019, but the sectoral decline was much higher than the economy-wide decline in job ads for ICT professionals. This signals a rising demand for ICT professionals in enterprises outside the ICT sector. As businesses and organisations implemented remote working arrangements and fast-tracked digitalisation of their services, in-house ICT specialists were increasingly in demand.

Thanks to its detailed and structured information on jobs and skills, Cedefop’s skills OVATE tool offers unique opportunities to explore the short- and medium-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cedefop will continue to use it to provide policy-relevant insights. Stay tuned!

More information

Cedefop Skills OVATE tool

Cedefop (2020). Coronavirus and the European job market: where the pandemic hit the hardest in spring 2020.

Cedefop (2019). Online job vacancies and skills analysis.   

Cedefop (2019). The skills employers want!

Eurofound (2020). COVID-19 crisis led to doubling of EU restructuring job loss in first six months of 2020.