Spain adds 222,000 public jobs more than before the pandemic



In a year with fewer restrictions thanks to the progress of the vaccination campaign, the labor market managed to take flight after the disaster of the 2020 financial year, a year marked by the health crisis. The thermometer of the Active Population Survey (EPA) of the INE confirmed this Thursday the recovery of employment in Spain at the end of 2021 with the creation of 840,700 jobs and a reduction in unemployment of 615,900 people. However, the boost in employment was achieved based on old recipes, such as the creation of public employment or the rise in the rate of temporary employment. The broken down figures from the EPA show that in the public sector there are 222,200 more employed than at the end of 2019; while in the private sector there are 4,200 fewer affiliates.

Consequently, the annual results in the private sector are below the figures prior to the crisis, 1.4% lower than the average for 2019. In contrast, in the public sector in 2021 there are 7% more employed people than in 2019.

Specifically, the increase in employment in 2021 was concentrated in the private sector, with the creation of 744,300 jobs compared to the 96,400 that were generated in the public sector. In the fourth quarter, private employment rose by 162,500 people, to the figure of 16,709,400. For its part, public employment fell by 8,500 jobs, to a total of 3,475,500 after setting a record level in the third trimester.

More in detail, the global Statistics data certify that the total number of employed persons reached a figure of 20,184,900, that is, some 218,000 more affiliates than at the end of 2019, the year before the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The boost in job creation was also the highest since the regulation of immigrants carried out in 2005.

But, despite the boost in job creation, the figures extracted from the EPA maintain some chiaroscuro. Spain has not yet recovered the effective working hours prior to the pandemic, since if the closing of 2021 is compared with that of 2019, they are still 3.80% below. Specific, the fourth quarter of 2021 closed with a total of 616 million weekly hours worked by the whole of the employed Spanish population, which represented a year-on-year increase of 2.5%, although it still does not reach the pre-pandemic figures, when 640 million hours were recorded. In addition, in the public sector, hours worked were -3.7% below those registered in the fourth quarter of 2019.

In terms of unemployment, unemployment fell by 615,900 people in 2021, which was 16.5% less than in 2020 and its largest annual reduction since 2015. Thanks to this reduction, the unemployment rate fell to a percentage of 13, 33%- compared to 16.13% with which it closed 2020-, until accounting a total of 3,103,800 unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2021.

By sectors, in the last year unemployment has decreased in all of them, highlighting the decrease in services with 440,500 fewer unemployed. For its part, the number of unemployed who have lost their jobs for more than a year has fallen by 55,900 and the number of unemployed who are looking for their first job by 4,000 people. At the same time, the number of people employed in industry, services, construction and in agriculture and livestock increased. Of the 16 branches of activity, employment grew in all of them except in retail trade, where it fell by 2.5% year-on-year, Public Administration (-1.2%) and domestic service (-7.9%).

Despite the improvement in the labor market, temporality remained a structural evil and even rose compared to 2020. Thus, the temporary rate stood at 25.38% after rising by almost 0.8% compared to the year of the pandemic, when it stood at 24.63%. In annual variation, the number of wage earners rose by 732,700 with an increase in permanent employment by 425,000 people and temporary employment by 307,700. For its part, the number of self-employed workers has risen by 96,000 this quarter and in the last 12 months 105,800 more self-employed workers were registered.

Given this scenario, the CEOE stresses that there is still a long way to go to recover the pre-crisis levels of the labor market and that the normalization process of the Spanish economy has not ended due to the notable inequalities between sectors. Employers warn that this situation should be taken into account in the collective bargaining process "especially in a context with growing uncertainties and risks that may negatively affect the intensity of the economic recovery."

“In the private sector, employment is still 232,300 people below the average levels of 2019 (-1.4%). For its part, in the public sector, there are 226,600 more than two years ago (+7%). In the economy as a whole, there are still 5,700 fewer employed people than before the pandemic. specify from CEOE. For his part, the resident of the National Federation of Self-Employed Workers (ATA), Lorenzo Amor, warned that “there is still a way to go” to achieve "an absolute recovery of employment".

Rebound in sick leave

Sources in the sector interpret that employment is more distributed and that the Temporary Employment Regulation File (ERTE) and medical leave due to coronavirus have a lot to do with this situation. Thus, the quarterly survey also reflects the impact of the Ómicron variant on sick leave, since absence due to illness increased by 109,600 people this quarterwhile the due ERTE or partial unemployment for technical or economic reasons fell by a total of 31,400.

"In addition, the imbalance between the moderate growth of the GDP and the strong impulse of employment indicates a growing loss of productivity," they point out from Infojobs. “This data alerts us that employment is increasingly partial, temporary and precarious. If the number of employed people grows, but the hours worked decrease, we are facing an increase in part-time shifts, in jobs for weeks and days. We have always said that employment is broken up, but right now it is atomized," says Joaquín Pérez, general secretary of the Workers' Union.

For his part, José Manuel Corrales, professor of Economics and Business at the European University, stresses that in the fourth quarter the total number of hours worked increased by 7.33% over the previous quarter. "The data cannot be compared with the last quarter of 2019 because, there, those affected by ERTE were not counted, which are not counted when assessing the number of hours registered," he argues.

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