BiH Labour Force Survey’s preliminary findings for 2019: A brief overview

Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina has published preliminary results of the 2019 Labour Force Survey. Published report provides an overview of the main labour market indicators and, therefore, an in-depth analysis of the labour market trends is not possible before the final report is published.

Hereby I am providing a very brief and basic descriptive analysis of the findings in bullet-points:

  • Trend of moderate improvements in labour market performance has continued in 2019.
  • The unemployment rate has been falling since 2016, dropping to 15.7% in 2019. Thus unemployment rate is lower by 2.7 percentage points compared to the previous year and by 12 percentage points compared to 2015 when unemployment reached its peak point. Since 2017, unemployment rate is below pre-crisis level.

Unemployment rate (%), 15+, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008-2019

unemployment rate

Source: Labour Force Surveys 2008-2019

  • Similarly, youth unemployment rate further decreased – by 5 percentage points compared to 2018 – amounting to 33.8% in 2019. However, youth unemployment rate is still much above the EU-28 average (16.8% in 2018).
  • It is interesting to see that, after the decade where the share of long-term unemployment in total unemployment was fluctuating between 81% and 85%, this share notably decreased. In that sense, the share of unemployed people who were looking for a job for 12 months or longer is 75.7% in 2019. However, it is not clear at the moment what was driving this notable change. I will provide more detailed analysis once the final LFS report is published. Until then, I would be skeptical about this finding.
  • Employment rate is 35.5%, by 1.2 percentage points higher than in 2018 and by 3.9 percentage points compared to 2013 when employment reached its lowest point of the past decade. However, data on absolute number of new (additional) employed people in y-o-y perspective is still not available.
  • The gender employment gap slightly decreased (by 1.2 percentage points), being 17.9 pp in 2019, slightly below the ten-year average of 18.5 pp. This is a result of higher increase in employment rate among women (1.7 pp) than among men (0.5) in the y-o-y perspective. However, the gap is still substantially bigger compared to the EU-28 average of 11.5 pp (2017).

Employment rate (%), 15+, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008-2019

employment rate 2

Source: Labour Force Surveys 2008-2019

  • Finally, it seems that the trend of continuous decrease in activity rate has stopped in 2019: activity rate is the same as it was in 2018 (42.1%). Gender gap in activity narrowed a bit (18.8 pp in 2019 compared to 21.8 in 2018), but primarily due to constant fall in male activity rate.

Activity rate (%), 15+, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008-2019

activity rate

Source: Labour Force Surveys 2008-2019

  • It is important to notice that drop in unemployment rate was followed by increased employment rate and, for the first time, stagnant activity rate; therefore, it can be assumed that drop in unemployment rate was mainly translated to new employments, but more detailed data is needed to assess how potential shrinking of working age population has affected particular indicators.

It is important to mention that LFS data for 2017-2019 is not fully comparable to previous data due to methodological changes that took place in 2017, as stated by the Agency for Statistics of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, it is impossible to assess to what extent this change affected the results of the survey and time series due to lack of more detailed information provided by the Agency for Statistics. In other words, it is not possible to establish methodologically consistent time series over the period of the last decade. This break in time series is indicated in all figures with “(b)”.

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