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Poland overtakes Czech Republic for lowest unemployment in the EU

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Warsaw, Poland – The Czech Republic has lost its spot as the EU member state with the lowest unemployment rate and has been overtaken by Poland, according to the latest Eurostat figures.

Poland has lowest unemployment in the EU in 2021

Poland had the EU’s single lowest unemployment rate (3.1%, +0.1 percentage point year-on-year), at the start of 2021, overtaking neighbouring Czech Republic (3.2%, +1.2 pp), which had boasted Europe’s weakest joblessness rate for the past few years.

The Netherlands (3.6%), Malta (4.4%) and Germany (4.6%) complete the top 5, according to the EU’s statistical office.

Among V4 economies, the unemployment rates of Hungary (4.9, +1.1 pp) and Slovakia (7.2%, +1.2 pp) also reported strong hikes over the past twelve months.

The EU’s average unemployment rate stood at 7.3% in January 2021, with the highest figures observed in Spain (16%), Lithuania (9.6%), Sweden (8.8%), Latvia (8.5%) and France (7.9%).

In terms of youth unemployment (under 25s), Germany took the top spot with a joblessness rate of 6.2%, followed by the Netherlands (9.1%), Austria (9.7%) and the Czech Republic (10.8%). While Czechia had the lowest male unemployment rate (2.4%), Poland came first in Europe for women (2.9%).

First recession in 30 years

Past studies have shown that Poland could be one of the most resilient economies in the EU and would be able to absorb the shock of the COVID-19 crisis and renew with economic growth faster than most.

Preliminary estimates show that Poland’s economy shrank by “only” 2.8% in 2020, the country’s first recession in three decades. The Czech Republic’s GDP, for its part, fell by twice as much (-5.6%).

A number of analysts have urged caution regarding Eurostat’s figures, which they say fail to paint a comprehensive picture of the EU’s labour market and do not reflect the true extent of the pandemic’s impact on unemployment.