Situation room report 22.10.2020 – latest developments in the labor market, households and firms

October 22, 2020

The Helsinki GSE situation room continues publishing reports based on up-to-date data every other week. The reports follow the economy’s development from the labor market’s, households’ and firms’ perspectives.

Many figures use the spring and summer 2019 as a comparison period. The background information for the figures has been collected from the Statistics Finland’s registers. The latest available background information from Statistics Finland is from the end of 2018.

Labor market

Labor market – wage sum

The figure below shows the monthly sum of wages in 2019 and 2020 based on the Income Register. In May, the wage sum lagged circa 0.6 billion euros behind 2019’s levels, whereas in June this deficit had reduced to approximately 0.4 billion. In July, the wage sum has reverted back to the level of 2019 and even surpassed it slightly, but in August it dropped again circa 0.25 billion below 2019 level. Preliminary, in September the wage sum is only slightly below the 2019 level.

When examining the wage sum figures, it is good to keep in mind that information is uploaded to the Income Register with varying degrees of lag, so the figures may always slightly change in the future. In practice, data more than one month old can be considered nearly final – this means that the wage sum of September is still considered preliminary information.

The figure below compares the industry wage sums in September 2019 and 2020. While in August the wage sum of especially manufacturing, construction, support services and logistics had fallen behind last year, in September construction has nearly caught up. In September 2020 labor earnings in health and social care as well as public administration are higher compared to 2019.

The following three figures show the total labor earnings in Finnish municipalities in 2019 and 2020. The first figure shows the total labor earnings in Finland’s 20 largest municipalities, while the second figure shows the percentage changes. In September, Kouvola, Vantaa and Porvoo had the largest drops in relative earnings. In August the largest changes were between -5.4% and -4.4%, but in September the changes were between -2.6% and -1.7%.

The third figure shows the ten municipalities which have performed best and worst, among all municipalities. In September the sum of earnings dropped most in Uusikaupunki (-8.4%). In a few cities the wage sum was higher than last year, for example in Kajaani and Tampere by 2.9%.

The next two figures show labor earnings by age group in September. The figures show that labor earnings have increased for workers aged 55 and above, but decreased for workers below 30. There are relatively small changes for the following age groups: 30-44, 55-59 and over 64. The change for workers below 25% is -6.9%. In both absolute and relative terms, the age group of under 25 years has suffered the largest decrease.

Labor market – furloughs and layoffs

The figure below shows the weekly new furloughs and unemployment spells in 2019 and 2020. September has seen considerably less new spells than the weeks following the establishment of restrictions to combat the coronavirus. However, the number of new furlough spells still remains clearly larger than last year by the beginning of October

The next figure breaks down the sum of new unemployment and furlough spells in 2019 and 2020 by industry. The number of newly unemployed and furloughed has grown in all the industries except in self-employment. The largest growth has been in manufacturing, trade and hotels&restaurants. Of the major industries, public administration has been least affected.


Households – housing allowance

The number of applications for Kela’s general housing allowance started to exceed the level of last year as the state of emergency came into effect in mid-March. By the end of reference period (19.10.), more than 50 000 applications had arrived to Kela compared to the corresponding time-period in the previous year. Since May, the growth in the number of applications has followed last year’s trend.

The growth in the number of applications for housing allowance has increased most in Uusimaa with over 15% more applications in 2020 compared to the corresponding period in 2019. Over 100 000 individuals from Uusimaa have applied for housing benefits in 2020. The second-largest region in growth has been Etelä-Pohjanmaa. No more than 5% growth in benefit applications has been observed in Pohjois-Karjala, Pohjois-Savo and Keski-Suomi.

Households – unemployment benefit

The number of applications for Kela’s unemployment benefits exceeds last year’s by more than 130 000 applications. The numbers started to grow sharply a week after the state of emergency came into effect. Since May, the growth of the number of new applications has slowed down, and it is now beginning to be roughly equal to that of last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the labor markets across the nation. Uusimaa, the largest region , has experienced nearly 100 % growth in the number of unemployment benefit applicants in September. Even in regions with relatively low unemployment benefit application growth rates, the applications have increased by more than 30 %.

The restrictions during the state of emergency and social distancing affected service industries the most. The characteristics of service industry employees are reflected in the sex and occupation distributions of those applying for Kela’s unemployment security. The fact that most of the applicants belong to the younger age groups, follows from their lower rates of belonging to unemployment funds and fulfilling employment conditions.

Comparing unemployment benefit applications with last year’s figures show that the state of emergency has affected families more strongly than those living alone.

Nearly 75% of those who have been furloughed during the crisis belong to single-family households. However, the number of laid off workers living alone and in single-family households have increased relatively equally from last year.


Firms – the share of firms with furloughs

The figures below show the share of all firms with at least one furlough. The share of employees in the firms that have been furloughed is not considered. The figures shows numbers by industry, county and the size of firms (in terms of employees).

Since the beginning of March, over 25 % of the hospitality and restaurant businesses operating in Finland have furloughed workers. The largest shares occur in Lapland (Lappi) and Uusimaa. The figures also show the larger companies have been more likely to furlough workers.

In every industry, region, or firm size class, the share has increased considerably in March-April and relatively little during May-October.

Firms – the share of furloughed employees

The below figures show the share of employees that have been furloughed, in firms that have furloughed employees. Each point on each horizontal line describes the situation for a particular month with the month numbers marked inside the points. E.g., in the first figure, a point with number four inside tells the share of employees that has been furloughed on average by firms of that particular industry in April (4th month), if any employees were furloughed – the numbers do not include firms with 0 percent of employees furloughed. The figures show the numbers by industry, county, and the size class of firms (in terms of employees).

From the first figure, we see that in March and April, in many industries the share of employees furloughed was high. For instance, in the hospitality industry (Horeca), the share of furloughed employees, in firms that furloughed employees, was around half in March but from May to October, the share of employees furloughed was 20% or less.

The last figure shows that the largest firms have furloughed the smallest share of their employees and the smallest firms have furloughed the largest share of their employees.

Firms – Business Finland subsidies

The figures below show the share of firms that have received at least one subsidy from Business Finland up to a certain date (21.10.). The figures show the numbers by industry, county and the size class of firms (in terms of employees). The deadline for the applications was on the 8th of June, but subsidies continue to be granted to firms that had applied it by then.

Firms – ELY subsidies

The graph below shows the shares of firms that have received subsidies from the regional ELY operators (Centre for economic development, transport and the environment). The data has only been available since April, and thus the graphs do not have reference figures from the beginning of the year. This should also be taken into consideration when comparing these subsidy figures to those granted by Business Finland.

The industries with the largest shares of firms receiving subsidies are in the hospitality industry (Horeca) and logistics. Communications and manufacturing industries got relatively more subsidy from Business Finland than from ELY operators.

The figure below indicates the share of firms that have received ELY subsidies by county. The largest share is in Lapland (Lappi), whereas the Business Finland subsidies were concentrated more on firms in Uusimaa (most populous region).

The ELY-subsidies are directed towards smaller firms than the subsidies given by Business Finland. The basic rule is that a firm applying for an ELY-subsidy should have at most five employees working for it at the moment of the application. According to the figure below, also firms larger than that have received some of the subsidies. However, this is likely explained to a large extent by the fact that the information on the size classes of the firms is outdated.

Firms – bankruptcy applications

The last figure shows the cumulative number of bankruptcy applications in a given year up to a certain date (21.10.). The x-axis shows the date, and the y-axis the total number of bankruptcy applications left by that date since the start of the year. Years 2018 and 2019 are used for comparison with 2020.

Before the implemented actions against the coronavirus, there were more bankruptcy applications this year than in the previous two years. The rate of accumulation of applications has not increased from mid-March. Instead, since June, the cumulative number of applications has been lower than in previous years, and the rate of growth seems only to be slowing. This is most likely explained by the change in law (HE 46/2020) in April, where the creditor’s right to file for bankruptcy was temporarily restricted.

  • Additional information about the Helsinki GSE Situation Room consisting of researchers from Helsinki GSE, University of Turku, VATT Institute of Economic Research and Statistics Finland:
  • Additional information about the report: Otto Toivanen, otto.toivanen [at]
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