No single source of employment, unemployment and wages is perfect. The main sources are listed below along with comments on which one is best for which purpose. They're listed in the order I usually go in when helping students find statistics.


UNdata consolidates lots of individual sources of statistics. It rarely has everything that the original source does and it usually only provides a few years at a time. However, it's extremely easy to use and you can link to the tables you find. If you don't need lots of years or extremely detailed data, this is the best tool.

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LABORSTA is the database of the International Labour Organization. It's the primary source for official statistics by country from 1961-present of
  • employment
  • unemployment
  • wages
  • hours of work
  • occupational injuries
  • strikes and lockouts
  • international labour migration

LABORSTA also has statistics on a host of related topics like workers in the informal economy and rural workers. See the LABORSTA User Guide to get the best use of the database. Because the database has some functional limitations, it's generally 2nd choice after UNdata. However, it's got the most data for the most countries of all the sources on this page.

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IFS Online

Variables by country for 1980-present include
  • employment
  • wage rates
  • manufacturing wage rates
  • total employee compensation
  • employment in manufacturing
  • employment in mining
  • unemployment rate

IFS Online is preferable to LABORSTA if you need total employment, unemployment or wages. If you need the data for an industry, it's limited to the manufacturing and mining sectors. It also requires the user to install the Microsoft Silverlight plugin the first time you use it, but you aren't prompted to do so until after you've selected your data. Then you end up having to start over again. You can save links to the data you've selected so that, if included in a citation in a paper, a reader will get back to the exact table you're referencing.

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IMF Data Mapper

Unemployment rate by country 1980-present monthly, quarterly and annually. Data access via maps with exportable tables. Easy to use and you can link to specific tables for citations. However, it only has unemployment statistics.

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The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is a 34-country member organization. OECD.STAT is OECD’s statistics portal. Within OECD.STAT is the database "Structural Analysis (STAN) Databases for Industry Analysis". The STAN files have statistics from 1970-present for OECD member countries on
  • industry production/output
  • labor costs
  • employment rates
  • hours worked and wages

You get to it by going to OECD.STAT > DATA > Industry and Services > Structural Analysis (STAN) Database.

The STAN database has data for 107 industries and for a fairly long time. However, it only covers OECD countries. Also, you can't link to the tables in your citations. Since your citation will be general, you want to make sure you clearly describe the specific data you're referencing (e.g. labor costs for Germany for the textile industry from 1970-1985) as part of your paper.

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