The first quarter of 2018 was characterised by stationary employment compared to the last three months of 2017, in an overall panorama of increasing unemployment and decreasing inactivity.
The short term dynamics of the labour market was part of a macroeconomic phase of slight deceleration of the GDP growth (+0.3% quarter over quarter and +1.4% on an annual basis). Overall, the economy of the Euro area countries grew by 0.4% compared to the previous quarter and by 2.5% compared to the first quarter of 2017. In Italy, economic growth was associated with a reduction in labour input quarter over quarter (-0.2%) and an increase on a yearly basis (+0.7%) with growth in labour productivity both compared to the previous three months and on an annual basis.
On the labour supply side, in the first quarter of 2018 employment remained substantially stable compared to the previous quarter, due to the further increase in fixed-term employees (+69 thousand, +2.4%) and the corresponding decrease in both permanent employees (-23 thousand, -0.2%) and self-employed (-37 thousand, -0.7%). The employment rate remained broadly unchanged at 58.2%, too. In the most recent monthly data (April 2018), net of seasonality, the number of employees continued to grow compared to March 2018.
The dynamics over the last year show an increase by 147 thousand employees (+0.6% in one year), limited to fixed-term employees (+385 thousand) against a decline of those on permanent contracts and the self-employed. For the fourteenth consecutive quarter, full-time employment increased while part-time employment decreased for the second consecutive time, after uninterrupted growth since 2010. On the basis of flow data, after twelve months, it is estimated that there was an increase in passages from part-time to full-time, especially for those who experienced involuntary part-time work. In the first quarter of 2018, the growth of employment and the related rate for young people aged 15-34 continued, on both the quarterly and yearly bases. The increase in employment, spread across genders and geographical areas, was more intense for women and in the South and Islands area.
The unemployment rate increased slightly compared to the previous quarter and decreased compared to the previous year, while the rate of inactivity declined moderately in both cases. In the April 2018 data the stability of the unemployment rate was associated with a significant reduction in the inactivity rate on the previous month.
In the year over year comparison, for the fourth consecutive quarter, the decrease in the number of unemployed continued (-135 thousand in one year, -4.3%). It affected both genders and in about nine cases out of ten young people aged 15-34. The reduction of 15-64 year olds inactive (-87 thousand, -0.6%) was due exclusively to women and was concentrated in the South and Islands area.
In the flow data the passage towards employment increased only towards fixed-term work; the increase concerned above all the people with high educational attainment and the residents in the South and Islands area.
On the business side, the signs of short-term growth in labour demand were confirmed, with increases in employee jobs by 0.8% compared to the previous quarter and 3.3% on an annual basis, as a result of growth in both industry and services. However, the increase in the number of jobs was associated with a decrease in hours worked per employee on a quarter over quarter basis (-0.5%), while these remained unchanged on an annual basis. In addition, the use of short-time working allowance hours continued to decline. The vacancy rate, while remaining stable compared to the previous quarter, increased by 0.1 percentage points year on year. Wages and salaries showed a slight increase compared to the previous quarter (+0.1%) but remained stable on an annual basis. Social security contributions rose by 0.5% on a quarter over quarter basis and by 1.5% on an annual basis. As a result, labor costs increased by 0.3% compared with the previous quarter and by 0.4% compared with the same quarter of the previous year.