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CEP occasional paper
Labour markets in the time of Coronavirus: measuring excess
Jonathan Wadsworth
July 2020
Paper No' CEPOP52:
Full Paper (pdf)

Tags: covid-19; labour force survey; labour market performance; policy

Recessions are usually accompanied by some combination of job loss, hiring freezes, wage cuts or hours reductions. In a rapidly evolving economic crisis there is a need for timely information to assess labour market performance and develop strategies to address the problems that emerge. Household labour force surveys are not point-in-time data, but do offer the opportunity to analyse a broader range of outcomes not readily available in administrative data and over more frequent intervals than normally used. In what follows, the weekly information contained in the UK Labour Force Survey is tracked for several labour market outcomes from the first week of 2020 and onward as the Covid-19 crisis developed in spring 2020. The indicators are presented in �excess� form to gauge how far the incidence of a particular outcome differs from its weekly norm. These excess estimates can be regularly updated as new data arrive. It seems that the most common metrics of labour market performance, like unemployment or wage rates, show little departure from recent norms at the onset of the crisis. The initial margins of adjustment were instead around 7 million more workplace absences than usual, notable hours reductions in the order of 40% among the majority who carried on working, and an apparent stalling of hiring that had already begun several weeks before lockdown.