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The OECD unemployment rate rose to 5.6% in March 2020 (up from 5.2% in February 2020), reflecting the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, while early data for April signal an unprecedented increase. The number of unemployed across the OECD area, which now includes Colombia, rose by 2.1 million to 37 million in March.

The rise was particularly marked among women and young people aged 15 to 24. Female unemployment increased by 0.5 percentage points (to 5.8%) compared with an increase of 0.3 percentage point for men (to 5.3%), while youth unemployment picked up by 1.0 percentage point, to 12.2%.

More recent data for April (referring to the week ending 18 April) show very strong rises in  unemployment in the United States, to 14.7% (up from 4.4% in March), the highest level since the series started in January 1948, and in Canada to 13.0% (up from 7.8% in March). In both countries, the rise reflected the surge in the number of people on temporary layoff. 

In the euro area, the unemployment rate increased to 7.4% in March (from 7.3% in February). Unemployment rates increased by 0.5 percentage point or more in Canada, Colombia, Korea and the United States. The unemployment rate increased by only 0.1 percentage point in Japan, while it fell by 0.3 percentage point in Mexico.

Administrative data showed an increase in the registered unemployment rate in April for Belgium (up by 0.6 percentage point) and Germany (up by 0.8 percentage point) while it fell in Norway (down by 0.6 percentage point), following a fivefold increase in March.