Unemployment numbers swelled around the world this past spring when countries slammed shut their economies to slow down the coronavirus. With another wave of the pandemic hitting right now, here is where unemployment around the world stands as countries contemplate more closures.
Unemployment rates are significantly higher in underdeveloped countries compared to advanced economies. The worst rates are in South Africa (37%), the West Bank and Gaza (32.2%) and the Bahamas (25.1%).
Singapore (3%), the Czech Republic (3.1%) and Switzerland (3.2%) have the lowest unemployment rates in the world, signaling how some economies are faring during the coronavirus pandemic.
The US falls somewhere in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the world. With an unemployment rate hovering around 8.9%, the US ranked 45 out of 103 countries.
The two regions fairing relatively well compared to the rest of the world are Central and East European countries as well as parts of Asia. The rate is 4.3% in Germany and 3.3% in Japan.
We found the data for our worldwide map of unemployment at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The numbers represent the percentage of a country’s population that is out of work but looking for a job. The countries with the highest observed unemployment rates are both at the center of our visual and sized the largest. Conversely, countries with the lowest rates are located on the periphery and sized the smallest. We also applied a color-coding schema by continent, providing an intuitive multi-dimensional view of the global unemployment situation.
Here’s a ranking of the worst countries for unemployment rates on each continent, where data is available.
The Highest Unemployment Rates in North America
1. Canada: 9.7%
2. United States: 8.9%
3. Mexico: 5.2%
The Highest Unemployment Rates in South America
1. The Bahamas: 25.4%
2. Belize: 25.1%
3. Costa Rica: 22%
4. Colombia: 17.3%
5. Dominican Republic: 16%
The Highest Unemployment Rates in Europe
1. North Macedonia : 20.2%
2. Greece: 19.9%
3. Bosnia and Herzegovina: 19%
4. Spain: 16.8%
5. Serbia: 13.4%
The Highest Unemployment Rates in Asia
1. West Bank and Gaza: 32.2%
2. Armenia: 22.3%
3. Turkey: 14.6%
4. Iran: 12.2%
5. Mongolia: 12%
The Highest Unemployment Rates in Africa
1. South Africa: 37%
2. Sudan: 25%
3. Mauritius: 21%
4. Algeria: 14.1%
5. Morocco: 12.5%
(Limited data available in Africa)
The Highest Unemployment Rates in Oceania
1. Fiji: 13.4%
2. Australia: 6.9%
3. New Zealand: 6%
(Limited data available in Oceania)
The first and most glaring insight from our visual is how astonishingly high the unemployment rate is around much of the world. An incredible 36 countries have unemployment rates in the double-digits. The worst is South Africa at 37% followed by the West Bank and Gaza (32.2%) and the Bahamas (25.1%). But unemployment rates are also extremely high in several developed and advanced economies as well, including Spain (16.8%) Italy (11%) and Canada (9.7%). To be fair, the IMF data illustrate how many of these countries were struggling with high unemployment numbers before the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting that perhaps the virus is compounding an already bad economy for some people.
Our map also contains a few bright spots. There are lots of countries with low, and occasionally extremely low, unemployment numbers. Japan stands out as one of the largest economies in the world where the rate stands at just 3.3%. China’s rate is only 3.8%. And for Germany, the economic powerhouse of the EU, unemployment is just 4.3%. The US falls right in the middle of the pack at 8.9%.
There is one important caveat when it comes to unemployment numbers. Throughout 2020, the number of unemployed people, at least across much of the Western developed world, depended entirely on the extent to which governments locked down the economy to stop the spread of the coronavirus. With the new increase of cases this fall, there is already talk of more mandatory closures. This will only drive the unemployment rates back to historically high numbers.
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