Employment and unemployment

Labour market in first quarter 2021: modest growth in some sectors

Work & training
Labour market in first quarter 2021: modest growth in some sectors

69% of people aged 20 to 64 were employed in the first quarter of 2021. This is what emerged from the new results of Statbel, based on the Labour Force Survey. The ILO unemployment rate rises to 6.7%. Between the first quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, the number of employed persons declined the most in the ‘horeca’ sector (-40.4%).

Other sectors where the number of employed persons decline strongly are “Other service activities” (-19.9%) and “Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles” (-8.7%). Sectors that have seen their employee numbers grow include ‘Extraterritorial organisations and bodies’ (+18.4%), the sector ‘Information and communication’ (+9.7%) and ‘Financial and insurance activities’ (+7%).

In 2021, a new European framework regulation (EU Regulation 2019/1700) came into force. The questionnaire has been thoroughly revised, among others, to bring it into line with the adjusted operational definitions of employment and unemployment of the International Labour Office (ILO). Therefore, the employment rate of 2021 cannot simply be compared with the figures before 2021. One of the most important changes: from this year on, those who have been temporarily unemployed for more than three months will be counted among the unemployed or inactive, rather than the employed, depending on the answers to the questions on job search and availability.

In addition to this adaptation to the new definitions of employment and unemployment, the new framework regulation also sought to bring more uniformity in the way certain concepts are measured, which should ensure more comparable results at European level. To make a number of changes comprehensible, we publish both the official figure and an alternative, more comparable figure for the most important indicators.

Table 1

Employment rate, unemployment rate and activity rate by gender for Belgium and the regions, last 4 quarters

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Table 2

Definitions regarding employment and unemployment

The survey is harmonised at European level. The definitions regarding employment and unemployment that are mentioned are those of the International Labour Office (ILO) to allow international comparison.

  • People with a job (employed people) comprise all people who during the reference week performed some work ‘for wage or salary’ or ‘for profit’ regardless of the duration (even if this was only one hour), or who had a job but were temporarily absent. For example, one can be temporarily absent for holidays, illness, technical or economic reasons (temporary unemployment),....

Family workers are also included in the category ‘employed’.

Since 2021, people who have been temporarily unemployed for an uninterrupted period of more than three months are counted as unemployed or inactive, and no longer as employed.

  • The unemployed comprise all people who:

(a) during the reference week were without work, i.e. were not in paid employment or self-employment;

(b) were available for work, i.e. were available for paid employment or self-employment within two weeks after the reference week;

(c) were actively seeking work, i.e. had taken specific steps during the last four weeks including the reference week to seek paid employment or self-employment, or who had found a job to start within a maximum period of three months.

Please note: The ILO unemployment figures are unrelated to any possible registration with the VDAB, Actiris, FOREM or the ADG, or to the receipt of unemployment benefits from ONEM (National Employment Office). As a result, they cannot be compared with administrative unemployment figures.

  • The labour force is made up of the employed and the unemployed.
  • The economically inactive population comprises all people who were not considered as employed or unemployed.
  • The employment rate represents employed persons as a percentage of the same age population. 
  • The employment rate as part of the Europe 2020 Strategy represents the share of persons employed in the population aged 20 to 64. 
  • The unemployment rate represents the share of unemployed people in the labour force (employed + unemployed) within a given age group.
  • The economic activity rate represents the share of the labour force (employed + unemployed) in the total population within a given age group.

The above indicators (employment rate, unemployment rate and economic activity rate) are the most important indicators for international comparisons of the labour market evolution.



LFS : Methodological improvements of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2017 (PDF, 97 Kb)