To read this content please select one of the options below:

Unemployment and spell duration during the Great Recession in the EU

Carlos Gradín (Department of Applied Economics, Facultade de CC. Económicas, Universidade de Vigo, Vigo, Spain)
Olga Cantó (Department of Economics, Alcalá de Henares, Spain)
Coral del Río (Department of Applied Economics, Universidade de Vigo, Vigo, Spain)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 5 May 2015




The purpose of this paper is to analyze the different dynamic characteristics of unemployment in a selected group of European Union countries during the current Great Recession, which had unequal consequences on employment depending on the country considered.


The paper follows Shorrocks’s proposal of a duration-sensitive measure of unemployment, and uses cross-sectional data reported by Eurostat coming from European Labour Force Surveys.


The results add some evidence on the relevance of incorporating spells’ duration in measuring unemployment, finding remarkable differences in unemployment patterns in time among European countries.

Research limitations/implications

In this paper unemployment is analyzed for all the labor force. Future research should investigate patterns across specific groups such as young people, women, immigrants or the low skilled.

Practical implications

It is generally accepted that the negative impact of unemployment on individual welfare can be very different depending on its duration. However, conventional statistics on unemployment do not adequately capture to what extent the recession is not only increasing the incidence of unemployment but also its severity in terms of duration in time of ongoing unemployment spells. The paper shows an easy and practical way to do it in order to improve the understanding of the unemployment phenomenon, using information usually reported by statistical offices.


First, the paper provides a tool for dynamic analysis of unemployment based on reported cross-sectional data. Second, the paper demonstrates the empirical relevance of considering spells’ duration when assessing differences in unemployment across countries or in unemployment trends. This is usually neglected or only partially addressed by most conventional measures of unemployment.



JEL Classification — D30, D63, I31, J64

The authors acknowledge financial support from the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (ECO2010-21668-C03-03 and ECO2013-46516-C4-2-R) and Xunta de Galicia (CN2012/178).


Gradín, C., Cantó, O. and del Río, C. (2015), "Unemployment and spell duration during the Great Recession in the EU", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 216-235.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles