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Top 10 European Countries With The Highest Unemployment Rates, 2020

Mykonos Island Greece

In 2019, one year before COVID-19 unemployment rates continued to vary widely across the EU’s 27 member states. In some countries, unemployment rates reached a really high percentage causing concern to governments. Of course, data won’t be satisfactory either at the end of 2020 due to the spread of coronavirus that has highly affected the economy and the labor market.

For example, March saw COVID-19 containment measures widely introduced in Europe. The euro area seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 7.4 percent, up from 7.3 percent in February. The EU unemployment rate was 6.6 percent in March, up from 6.5 percent in February.

Eurostat estimates that 14.14 million people in the EU, of whom 12.16 million are in the euro area, were unemployed as of March 2020. Compared with February 2020, the number increased by 241,000 in the EU and by 197,000 in the euro area.

Greece was the country with the highest unemployment rate in the active working population. In specific, the unemployment rate in Greece in 2019 between the ages of 15 and 74 years old reached 17.3%.

The second country in the EU with the highest unemployment rate was Spain. In 2019 Spain’s unemployment rate reached 14.1% between the ages of 15 and 74 years old.

The third country on the list is Italy. In 2019 Italy’s unemployment rate reached 10% between the ages of 15 and 74 years old.

France and Cyprus complete the top 5 countries in the European Union where unemployment reached a significantly high level. In 2019 France’s unemployment rate reached 8.5% and Cyprus’s 7.1% between the ages of 15 and 74 years old.

In the 6th place of the list follows Sweden with a 6.8% unemployment rate in 2019 and then in the 7th place comes Finland with 6.7% unemployment rate in 2019.

Croatia, Latvia, and Lithuania complete the last 3 places of the list with the EU’s countries that presented a significantly high level of unemployment in 2019. Croatia’s unemployment rate reached 6.6%, Latvia’s 6.3%, and Lithuania’s also 6.3%.

Top 10 European countries with the highest unemployment rate in the active working population

  1. Greece (17.3%)
  2. Spain (14.1%)
  3. Italy (10%)
  4. France (8.5%)
  5. Cyprus (7.1%)
  6. Sweden (6.8%)
  7. Finland (6.7%)
  8. Croatia (6.6%)
  9. Latvia (6.3%)
  10. Lithuania (6.3%)

The lowest rates were of unemployment recorded in four Czech regions. Prague and Central Bohemia (both 1.3%), South-West (1.5%) as well as North-East (1.7%), followed by West Transdanubia (1.8%) in Hungary, two German regions, Upper Bavaria and Tübingen, and one further Czech region, South-East (all 1.9%).

On the other hand, the highest unemployment rates were registered in Mayotte (30.1%) an overseas region of France, the Spanish autonomous cities of Melilla (27.0%) and Ceuta (25.8%) and two Greek regions, West Macedonia (24.6%) and Western Greece (24.1%).

Among the 239 EU regions for which data are available, 66 had an unemployment rate of less than 3.4% in 2019, half the average of the EU (6.7%). In these EU places are included twenty-two regions in Germany, eleven in Poland, eight in the Netherlands, seven in Czechia, five in Austria, four in Hungary, three in Romania, two each in Belgium and Bulgaria, as well as one each in Italy and Slovakia. In contrast, 29 regions had an unemployment rate of at least 13.4%, double that of the EU. Ten regions in Greece, nine in Spain and five each in France and Italy.

In 2019, the average unemployment rate for young people aged between 15 and 24 in the EU was 15.1%. However, there are marked regional differences in the unemployment rates for young people. The lowest rate was recorded in North-East (2.8%) in Czechia, followed by Czech capital city region Prague and German region Upper Bavaria (both 3.3%) as well as another Czech region, Central Bohemia (3.6%), three German regions, Freiburg (4.0%), Swabia (4.4%) and Münster (4.6%) as well as South-West (4.7%) in Czechia. By contrast, the highest rate was recorded in the Spanish region Melilla (64.0%), followed by the French region Mayotte (54.1%), West Macedonia (53.5%) in Greece, Ceuta in Spain and Guadeloupe, an overseas region of France, (both 52.7%) as well as Sicily (51.1%) in Italy. In over 83% of the EU regions for which data are available, the unemployment rate for young people was at least twice that of total unemployment in the same region.

The long-term unemployment share, which is defined as the percentage of unemployed persons who have been unemployed for 12 months or more, stood at 41.8% on average in the EU in 2019. Across EU regions for which data are available, the lowest shares of long-term unemployed were recorded in four Swedish regions, Stockholm (11.3%), Småland and islands (12.0%), South Sweden (13.1%) and West Sweden (13.6%), as well as North and East Finland (14.2%). On the other hand, more than three-quarters of the unemployed had been out of work for at least a year in the French overseas region Mayotte (84.4%), North-West (83.1%) in Bulgaria, Western Greece (75.4%), Peloponnese (75.3%) and Attica (75.2%) in Greece.

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Maria Gourtsilidou
Maria Gourtsilidou is Senior Editor of Research and Data Analytics at the CEOWORLD magazine. She is responsible for driving thought leadership, using data analytics to showcase the company’s products and services, and fostering knowledge sharing between CEOWORLD magazine and client organizations. She studied Public Administration (Economics Of The Public Sector) in Greece and holds a Bachelor’s in Public Administration from the Panteion University of Political & Social Studies. Follow Maria Gourtsilidou on Twitter. Write at