ECONOMY

Official jobless rate jumps to 11.2 percent in first quarter

The use of more accurate data drove Greece’s official unemployment figure sharply up to 11.2 percent in the first quarter of 2004, from 10 percent in the same period last year and 9.5 percent in the last quarter of 2003. The new figures are more accurate than past ones, according to National Statistics Service (NSS) Secretary-General Manolis Kontopyrakis, as they are the first to be derived from the latest census data (2001) and are based on a larger sample. The use of the previous census of 1991 is considered especially out of date as the country’s economically active population has since been replenished with a large number of officially registered immigrant workers, now estimated at 600,000. The number of women in employment has also risen. The country’s official unemployment rate had been in a state of continuous decline from a high of 12 percent in the first quarter of 2000. According to the latest figures, women are at a greater risk of unemployment than men, the respective rates being 16.8 percent and 7.3 percent. Young people aged 15-29 suffer most: About 21.3 percent of them are out of work, with unemployed women of that age group reaching 28 percent. In terms of groups according to educational qualifications, secondary school graduates are the worst hit while university graduates and those who have completed primary school education, on the «edges» of the spectrum, show better employment figures. Of the 4.67 million people comprising the country’s registered work force, the figure for those in employment stood at 4.15 million at the end of the first quarter. Out of 523,843 unemployed people, 40.7 percent are exclusively seeking full-time employment and 48.6 percent will work either part time or full time. Only 4.8 percent of the unemployed were offered a job but have rejected it for various reasons, the main being the low pay offered. Part-time employment remained low, at 4.6 percent of the employed population. Some 26.5 percent choses this option because they did not want to work full time, while another 47.7 percent could not find a full-time job. Foreign workers show a lower rate of unemployment in Greece, standing at 10.6 percent. The NSS’s regional figures show the Ionian islands worst affected by unemployment (18.7 percent), followed by Western Macedonia (16.2 percent) and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace (13.9 percent). Only the Peloponnese (9.9 percent), Thessaly and Attica (both at 9.7 percent) are in single figures. During the period in question, 110,000 people who were jobless a year earlier had found work, while 104,000 people who were employed in early 2003 were jobless between January and March this year. Another 95,000 who were not among the economically active population last year entered the job market but were without unemployment. Overall, the long-term unemployed, defined as those out of work for more than 12 months, made up 50.1 percent of the total number of jobless Greeks. The NSS projects a significant rise in unemployment in the last two quarters of 2004, when many Olympic projects were completed. The average unemployment rate in the 12 countries of the eurozone stood at 9.0 percent in August.