Employment and labour market


Levels of employment and unemployment are important indicators for assessing the economic performance of a national economy. Two different approaches are used to calculate data for Germany. On the one hand, the Federal Employment Agency publishes figures based on definitions outlined in the Social Security Code (Sozialgesetzbuch). These include data on employment and short-time working, unemployment and reported vacancies. On the other hand, the Federal Statistical Office publishes the number of employed persons and the internationally standardised unemployment rate, which are based on definitions set out by the International Labour Organization (ILO). This makes figures comparable for euro area countries and within the euro area.

Seasonally and calendar-adjusted time series as well as just calendar-adjusted time series are provided in addition to the unadjusted figures. Real-time data are available for selected indicators.

Employed persons as defined by ESA 2010

The data on employed persons in Germany calculated by the Federal Statistical Office are based on the definitions set out in the ILO standards, which are in line with the corresponding definitions specified in the European System of Accounts (ESA 2010).

Employed persons comprise all persons who perform a gainful activity as employees (wage earners, salaried employees, civil servants, marginally employed persons and soldiers) or as self-employed or family workers, regardless of the extent of this activity. The single-person concept applies here, meaning that those who have more than one job are only recorded once under their main source of employment.

Employees as defined by the Federal Employment Agency

The Federal Employment Agency determines the number of employees subject to social security contributions. These comprise employees who are subject to health, pension and long-term care insurance contributions and/or contributions pursuant to employment promotion law. Employees subject to social security contributions play a key role in financing social security systems and acquire rights to benefits.

The number of persons in exclusively marginal employment is published by the Federal Employment Agency. This number comprises persons whose monthly income is consistently below €450 and for whom such employment does not constitute a second job.

The Federal Employment Agency collects data on short-time working. Short-time workers are those employees whose regular working hours are reduced by more than 10% due to a temporary lack of work and are thus entitled to short-time working benefits. These benefits are granted as a wage substitute pursuant to the Third Book of the Social Security Code (Sozialgesetzbuch). Short-time working benefits are intended as partial compensation for loss of earnings and to protect employees from being laid off due to a temporary lack of work. There are three different types: short-time working benefits to compensate for economic difficulties, seasonal short-time working benefits (to compensate for poor weather conditions or a lack of orders in the construction sector) and transfer short-time working benefits (to avoid redundancies in the case of business restructuring).

Unemployed persons and unemployment rate

Persons counted as unemployed in the statistics of registered unemployed collected by the Federal Employment Agency are all those who

  • are not younger than 15 years old and have not yet reached retirement age;
  • are without employment or in only short-time employment (at present: less than 15 hours per week);
  • are seeking employment subject to social security contributions and comprising at least 15 hours a week;
  • have registered as unemployed with an employment agency or job centre and are available for job placement;
  • are not unfit for work due to illness;
  • reside in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The unemployment rate measures the number of unemployed persons as a percentage of the civilian labour force. The labour force is the sum of civilian persons in employment plus persons in unemployment.

Standardised unemployment rate in euro area countries and in the euro area

A common methodology is used for all euro area countries to determine the internationally standardised unemployment rates. This involves expressing the number of unemployed persons in relation to the civilian labour force. The definitions of unemployed and employed persons correspond to those of the ILO:

  • A person is considered unemployed if they work less than one hour a week, are available to take up work within the next two weeks and have been actively seeking work in the past four weeks. In euro area countries, only persons between the ages of 15 and 74 are included in the unemployment figures.
  • The civilian labour force comprises civilian employed persons (excluding persons in institutional households, e.g. soldiers in barracks) and unemployed persons.

The primary basis for estimating the number of unemployed and employed persons are the figures taken from the quarterly EU labour force survey and an EU-wide standard household survey. Eurostat publishes the figures for all euro area countries and uses them to calculate the internationally standardised unemployment rate for the euro area.

Reported vacancies

Reported vacancies are job openings reported by employers to employment agencies and job centres in order to be filled. These are positions that are not subsidised by the government. Reported vacancies comprise employment subject to social security contributions, marginal employment and other employment. In addition, the jobs are required to have an employment duration totalling more than 7 days. Not taken into consideration here are freelance and self-employed positions or positions reported to private employment agencies.