Labour market: a delicate situation in the midst of a pandemic

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How is the labour market doing at the beginning of 2021, in the context of a global pandemic? At the end of January, dares, in partnership with the DGEFP and the Employment Centre, publishes a follow-up of indicators to analyse the situation. It presents in particular the state on the hiring of young people, requests for partial activity, but also the implementation of long-term partial activity. The data transmitted is reviewed regularly, but the finding remains the same. The labour market is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, with a long-term economic impact.

Partial unemployment, layoffs, the labour market impacted by COVID-19

The labour market of 2021 is marked by a term: partial unemployment. It allows companies that do not have the same volume of work as before the crisis to reduce the activity of its employees. It receives financial support from the State and the Unédic for the payment of salaries.

As of November 2020, France had 2.9 million employees who were partially unemployed, or 16% of private sector employees. As of January 17, 2021, the labour market is registering 466,000 claims for november,for 418,000 companies. These applications concern 2.3 million employees. This data is much higher than in October, which shows the increase in the financial fragility of companies. For the month of October, 248,000 companies applied for compensation.

In sum, in November, there were about 233 million hours of partial work in the labour market. A large hourly volume, for a total partial activity allowance of 2.3 billion euros for November alone. Since the beginning of March, the cumulative total allocation amount has been EUR 25.1 billion.

In addition to companies with reduced activity compared to their usual level, the labour market is also seeing an increase in the number of companies in difficulty. Indeed, the number of employment safeguard plans (PES) increased significantly at the beginning of January, with an average of about 20 weekly files. Thus, the planned breach of employment contracts with the PES increases from 620 in the last two weeks of December 2020… At more than 2040 in the first two weeks of January.

The current situation is therefore delicate for managers and their employees.

The labour market reveals a perilous situation for employment

Since March 2020, the date of the beginning of the pandemic… 84,100 breaches of employment contracts were envisaged. That’s three times more than in the same period in 2019. In 4 out of 10 cases, this situation affects companies with more than 1,000 employees. And in 3 out of 10 cases companies with less than 250 employees.

Another difficult situation is collective redundancies. Since March, there have been more than 6,100 collective dismissal proceedings for economic reasons excluding PES notified to the various DIRECCT. In 9 out of 10 cases, or almost all of the proceedings, these collective redundancies involve staff of less than 10 employees. This demonstrates the high precariousness of the smaller structures, whose state of the labour market has a strong impact on their activity.

For these companies, depending on their industry, the situation is delicate. Faced with containment and curfew, many companies are looking for solutions to survive. Despite the aid,which supports the sectors most affected, business leaders are waiting, and fearing the future. A future already marked by a major economic crisis to come, the first outlines of which are emerging.

However, solutions exist to support employees. Collective transitions,for example, allow employees to train in promising activities to rebound. Essential solutions to enable the most demanding sectors to continue their activity, in a labour market whose face is changing sharply.

The pandemic has a strong impact on business activity, resulting in low activity.

Job search, an upward trend revealing a willingness to get by

As a result, the labour market is seeing the decline of certain sectors of activity impacted and weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic. But it also sees the rise of people wanting to look for a new job. Faced with this crisis, which does not yet seem ready to stop, the economic situation of households is rapidly becoming a concern. The introduction of the use of the Personal Training Account (PCF) then responds to a strongly emerging need. That of training in promising trades, even if it means retraining, to find a stable job.

Thus, in the first week of January, 40,000 new registrations are registered on the Employment Centre. This is down from only 17,000 in the same period in 2020. Is this evidence of a sharp rise in unemployment linked to the closure of businesses, or to an awareness of job seekers? A new labour market, in short, whose contours change every week…


  1. Labour market situation during the health crisis on 19 January 2021
  2. Employment during Covid-19 – Ministry of Labour, Dares
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