Greek ELSTAT released the unemployment figures for 2014Q3 today which marked the fall of the unemployment rate to 25.5%, down from 27.2% during the corresponding quarter of 2013. Given the positive outlook of the release I ‘d like to take a closer look at the details of Greek employment and if this drop of the unemployment rate really signifies a substantial improvement of the economy.

Based on various tables of the quarterly employment figures I have constructed the following table of certain numbers that I feel are important:

Greek employment 2013Q3 - 2014Q3

Personally I usually pass through the unemployment rate and go straight to the employment figure. As we can see, although unemployment dropped by 91 thousand people (compared to the same quarter of 2013), employment increased by 53 thousand which resulted in the labor force decreasing by 38,000. What is even more interesting is the fact that a large part of the drop in the labor force was due to a fall of the population over 15yr (-30,000). Obviously the fall in the unemployment rate becomes much less impressive if one looks only at employment while the (steady) fall in the 15+ population and the labor force are certainly not positive signs for the future.

Taking a closer look at the unemployed we see that the fall in that category was only due to people who were unemployed for less than a year while the long-term unemployed actually increased by another 10 thousand to reach close to 930,000 persons. These opposite movements are a worrying sign for the future since they might be indicators for the presence of hysteresis among the long-term unemployment. This will make reducing unemployment much more difficult (given that short-term unemployed are only 6% of the labor force with long-term unemployment reaching 19%).

Moving to employment we observe that the increase came almost entirely from part-time employment. If one also notices that under-employment was the major driver of employment (with under-employed now being close to 6.8% of employment) it is clear that employment growth is driven mainly by short-term, part-time unsecured jobs which probably pay very low salaries. The fall in the unemployment rate actually hides an increase in under-utilization of labor which finds it very hard to enter into full-time steady jobs while long-term unemployed seem to be left out of even these part-time employment opportunities.