The number of unemployed persons rose in the first quarter

Posted on 15 May 2024, 8:00

According to Statistics Estonia, in the first quarter of 2024, the unemployment rate was 7.8%, the employment rate was 68.4%, and the labour force participation rate was 74.2%.

Tea Vassiljeva, analyst at Statistics Estonia, explained that unemployment indicators trended noticeably upwards after last year’s fluctuations. 

“In the first quarter of this year, there were 58,900 unemployed persons. This is 19,800 persons more than in the first quarter of 2023 and 4,100 more than in the third quarter of 2023, which had the highest unemployment last year,” said Vassiljeva. She added that the unemployment rate – i.e. the share of the unemployed in the labour force – was 7.8%, which is 2.5 percentage points higher than the year before and also higher than the peak levels during the coronavirus pandemic.

The reasons for the growing number of unemployed persons were decreased employment, on the one hand, and the increased participation in the labour market by formerly inactive people (e.g. retired persons, students, homemakers, other persons who do not work nor are actively looking for work), on the other hand. 

The biggest decline occurred in industry and construction

Vassiljeva explained that the number of employed persons (693,300) was down by 3,300 compared with the first quarter of last year. “The employment rate, which is the share of the employed in the population aged 15–74, was 68.4%, declining by a percentage point year on year. The number of employees decreased the most, while the number of self-employed persons grew,” she said. 

Looking at sectors, the biggest fall occurred in industry and construction, both in terms of the number of employees and the number of employed persons overall. In services, the number of employees decreased year on year but there was a slight rise in overall employment. In agriculture, forestry and fishing, there was an increase in overall employment as well as in the number of employees. 

Change in number of employees, quarters 2019–2024

The shares of persons working full-time and those working part-time did not change. However, there was a greater share of employees who work part-time but would like to work and earn more.

The working-age population increased

In the first quarter, the number of economically inactive persons was down by 6,900 from last year. There were slightly more inactive persons among the population aged 15–24 (the main studying age). However, among 25–64-year-olds (i.e. those in the most active working age), the number of inactive persons fell significantly – in the first quarter, the number of inactive persons in this age group decreased by 10,400 (7,000 men and 3,400 women) year on year.

The labour force participation rate (the share of the labour force in the population aged 15–74) was 74.2%, which is 0.9 percentage points higher than in the first quarter of 2023. “As of 1 January 2024, the working-age population of Estonia has grown by 9,600. The growth is not as big as the year before when the working-age population grew by 25,600, but the war in Ukraine still influences our labour market,” said Vassiljeva. 

The Labour Force Survey statistics include permanent residents of Estonia who live or plan to live in Estonia for at least a year or more. The number of temporarily protected Ukrainian refugees included in the Labour Force Survey is too small to give estimates on them. More information about Ukrainians in the Estonian labour market can be found in the dedicated section of short-term statistics on our website.

More detailed data have been published in the statistical database and in the labour market application of Statistics Estonia and the Ministry of Social Affairs at (in Estonian).

N.B. Starting from 15 May 2024, annual and quarterly data about the labour market are published in separate tables. See Statistics Estonia’s website for more information.

When using Statistics Estonia’s data and graphs, please indicate the source.

For further information:

Heidi Kukk
Media Relations Manager
Marketing and Dissemination Department
Statistics Estonia
Tel +372 625 9181
press [at] (press[at]stat[dot]ee)