The exceptional circumstances that we are experiencing as a consequence of the health pandemic lead us to analyze the data with caution and make it difficult to compare the results with previous years.
The number of employed increased by 569,600 people in the third quarter, although it must be taken into account that in this period many companies returned to activity, after a second quarter in which the confinement and partial or total stoppage of many economic activities resulted in the loss of 1,074,000 jobs. In any case, in year-on-year terms, employment is at levels lower than those registered a year ago. Specifically, the interannual rate stood at -3.51% in the third quarter, highlighting the drop of 4.84% in the private sector (-805,900 people), compared to the 3.36% increase in public employment (+108,500 people).
Only a part of the employed should be considered for the purpose of the activity as effective work, since the employed figures include the workers affected by ERTE who are in a process of hibernation from the point of view of activity and employment. Based on the information from the EPA, it is estimated that in the third quarter just over 500,000 people did not work in the reference week due to partial unemployment for technical or economic reasons or a record of employment regulation.
The resumption of economic activity in the third quarter can be seen significantly in the evolution of the number of hours actually worked per week, which grew by 15.1% in the third quarter, after having fallen by -22.6% in the second. In year-on-year terms, the variation rate has gone from -26.6% in the second quarter to -7.2% in the third, so that effective employment levels, measured through hours worked, are still well below pre-crisis levels.
Permanent employment increased by 158,300 people in quarter-on-quarter terms, while wage earners with a temporary contract grew by 422,900 people.
Employment increased in quarter-on-quarter terms in all sectors, except agriculture, although in interannual terms all sectors are at employment levels lower than those recorded a year ago.
The notable increase in employment has not been transferred to the unemployment figures, since the number of unemployed increased by 355,000 people compared to the second quarter, bringing the total unemployed to more than 3.7 million people (15, 8% more than a year ago) and the unemployment rate at 16.26% (0.93 percentage points more than in the second quarter and 2.34 points more than a year ago).
This increase in unemployment in the third quarter was due to the considerable increase in the active population, by 924,600 people, the vast majority of whom came from the inactive population. In this sense, it should be remembered that in the second quarter, a considerable part of those who lost their jobs went into inactivity due to the impossibility of meeting the job search or availability to work requirements established by the EPA to be considered unemployed.
As a consequence of the health pandemic, the INE has changed the method for data collection work, so that since the last weeks of the first quarter no face-to-face interviews have been carried out and these have been replaced by telephone interviews. Furthermore, the extraordinary situation of reduced mobility of the informants may also affect the results of the survey. Finally, the statistical consideration of ERTEs and the exceptionality to which they are currently subjected make the analysis especially complex. Therefore, the results in this context may not be strictly comparable with those of previous quarters and it will be necessary to wait for the next few quarters to assess the incidence of these phenomena.
In short, the results of the EPA for the third quarter indicate that the end of the restrictions on activity and mobility has had a clear favorable effect on the labor market, after its notable deterioration in the second quarter. Even so, these results must be taken with caution, since the restrictive measures that are being reimposed due to the outbreaks of Covid-19 represent a partial return to the previous situation, with the consequent difficulty for activity and employment in the next few months.
Furthermore, it must be remembered that both employment and activity levels are clearly below those that existed a year ago. Therefore, the measures carried out to minimize the impact of the situation on companies must be intensified, in a context as exceptional as the one we are experiencing.