3 charts that show the state of the job market in OECD countries

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Victoria Masterson, Senior Writer, Formative Content


  • Unemployment across the 38 member countries of the OECD stabilized at 5% in May 2022.
  • Two-thirds of OECD countries say unemployment is “below or equal to” pre-pandemic levels.
  • 90% of OECD countries reported an increase in employment.
  • The proportion of working age people in the workforce is at its highest level since the end of 2019.

Unemployment is steadying in countries representing 80% of world trade and investment, as these three charts below show.

The figures are published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a 38-country grouping that advises policymakers.

Unemployment is levelling off

The OECD’s members span Europe, the Americas and the Pacific and include Australia, Canada, Chile, Germany, Israel, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Across its member nations, the OECD reports that unemployment stabilized at 5% in May 2022.

This is the lowest level since 2001 when the data was first collected.

Pre-COVID unemployment rates return

In two-thirds of OECD countries, the jobless rate for May was “below or equal to” pre-pandemic levels, the report found. The number of unemployed workers in the OECD – 33.8 million – also stayed broadly stable.

Women saw a marginal rise in unemployment for the first time since December 2020. For men and workers aged 25 and above, unemployment was stable. Among younger workers aged 15 to 24, unemployment continued to fall.

In Europe, OECD member countries saw joblessness fall slightly, from 6.7% in April to 6.6% in May. Italy, Lithuania and Spain saw the biggest falls in unemployment, while Austria, Belgium and Portugal had the biggest rises.

In the United States, unemployment stayed at 3.6% for the fourth month in a row. In Canada, unemployment fell another 0.6 percentage points to 4.9%.

Employment is rising

When the war in Ukraine started, employment and the proportion of working-age people in the workforce were at their highest levels since these datasets began in 2005 and 2008 respectively, the OECD said.

In the first quarter of 2022, the share of working-age people with jobs, including employees and self-employed people, climbed to 69%, with 90% of OECD countries seeing an increase in employment.

The share of working-age people in the workforce over the same period hit 72.9%.

This is the first time since the last quarter of 2019 that participation in the labour force has reached this level.

The future world of work

The future of work, jobs and skills – including the growing need for digital skills and jobs related to health and care – was a key theme of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland in May 2022.

“To address the substantial challenges facing the labour market today, governments must pursue a holistic approach, creating active linkages and coordination between education providers, skills, workers and employers, and ensuring effective collaboration between employment agencies, regional governments and national governments,” concluded the Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020.

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