This paper investigates the short-term joint dynamics of productivity and employment during economic down cycles in EU economies over the past 20 years. We disentangle changes in output into changes in employment and in productivity. We focus on the last two decades, highlighting the peculiarities of the latest recession. In particular, we show that there have been four major types of adjustments caused by the fall in output in Europe. We also suggest some possible fundamental institutional aspects that could explain both this phenomenon and peculiarities of this last recession.