Employment and unemployment in metropolitan areas

Metropolitan areas have contributed to 60% of employment creation across OECD countries in the past 15 years. However, the contribution to job creation varies substantially within and across countries. Metropolitan areas in Italy and Korea accounted for more than 80% of job creation between 2000 and 2014, compared to less than 30% in Switzerland and the Slovak Republic.

Since the economic crisis of 2008, jobs have recovered in many metropolitan areas; however, 2014 employment rates in metropolitan areas are still below 2007 levels in 19 out of 28 OECD countries. The largest differences are observed in Greece, Spain and Ireland where aggregated metropolitan employment rates in 2014 were on average 4 percentage points below the values of 2007. In contrast, metropolitan areas in Germany, Hungary and Estonia saw an increase of the average employment rate by at least 4 percentage points between 2007 and 2014 (Figure 2.44).

Unemployment has generally increased in OECD metropolitan areas since the crisis, from 5.5% in 2008 to 6.6% in 2014. However unemployment in metropolitan areas evolved differently from country to country over this period. While unemployment rates have increased on average by more than 10 percentage points in the metropolitan areas in Greece and Spain, metropolitan areas in Japan, Chile and Germany experienced a reduction in unemployment rates (Figure 2.45).


281 Metropolitan areas have been identified in 30 OECD countries, according to the OECD-EU methodology that identifies metropolitan areas on the basis of densely populated cities and their commuting zones (travel to work journeys) to reflect the economic geography of the population’s daily commuting patterns (see Annex A for details).

Employed persons are all persons who during the reference week worked at least one hour for pay or profit, or were temporarily absent from such work.

Unemployed persons are defined as those who are without work, are available for work, and have taken active steps to find work in the last four weeks.

The unemployment rate is defined as the ratio between unemployed persons and labour force where the latter is composed of unemployed and employed persons.

The employment rate is calculated as the ratio between employment and working age population (aged 15-64 years).

Values of employment and unemployment in the metropolitan areas are estimated by adjusting the corresponding values of TL3 regions (see Annex C).


OECD (2015), “Metropolitan areas”, OECD Regional Statistics (database), http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/data-00531-en.

Reference years and territorial level

The functional urban areas (FUA) have not been identified in Iceland, Israel, New Zealand and Turkey. The FUA of Luxembourg does not appear in the figures since it has a population below 500 000 inhabitants.

Further information

OECD (2012), Redefining “Urban”: A New Way to Measure Metropolitan Areas, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264174108-en.

Figure notes

 2.44- 2.45: Values refer to the year 2014 with the exception of Australia, Austria, Czech Republic, Switzerland 2013 and Slovenia 2011. Metropolitan labour figures are estimates based on data at TL3 level except for Chile, Mexico, Poland and Portugal where TL2 are used and NOG for Canada. Figures for Australia and the United States are provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics respectively. Metropolitan working age population is estimated on municipal population for the last two available Population Census. Swiss metropolitan areas are not included in the figures due to lack of data on comparable years.

Information on data for Israel: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888932315602.

2.44. Average employment rates in metropolitan areas, 2007 and 2014


2.45. Average unemployment rate change in metropolitan areas 2008-14