ECONOMY

Sharp rise in unemployment rate

Unemployment rose to 7.9 percent in the last quarter of 2008, up from 7.2 percent in the third quarter but down from a rate of 8.1 percent a year earlier, the National Statistics Service (NSS) announced yesterday. The average jobless rate for 2008 as a whole reached 7.7 percent, with over 377,100 unemployed. This latter figure rose to 392,668 in Q4. Concern centers on the fact that one in three people trying to find employment are unable to do so, while half of those who lose their jobs cannot find a new one for at least one year. In the last three months of 2008 there was an increase in unemployment, particularly in construction on account of the general economic slowdown, but also in the agricultural sector, due to the winter. Many companies suffering from the economic crisis have also been forced to lay off employees. Manpower Organization (OAED) data show layoffs increased by 17 percent in December 2008, compared with the same month in 2007. Employment figures declined in most sectors in the October-December period. There was a 4.7 percent drop in manufacturing, a 3.1 percent fall in construction, a 10.7 percent decline in services and a 17 percent contraction in the mining industry. In contrast, employment rose by 3.9 percent in commerce, both wholesale and retail, and by 4.6 percent in real estate management. Overall the primary sector saw employment grow by 0.1 percent, in the secondary sector it shrank by 2.1 percent and in services it expanded by 1.9 percent. The total number of people employed in the fourth quarter of 2008 is estimated at 4,553,623, while 91,254 people found a job in that three-month period after being unemployed since 2007. On the other hand, 76,905 people who had a job one year earlier were unemployed in Q4. As usual, younger people and women are the worst hit by unemployment. The jobless rate among women reached 11.7 percent against 5.3 for men, while one in every six persons (16.5 percent) aged 15-29 years had no job. Young women have an even higher unemployment rate that reached 21.1 percent in October-December 2008.