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Economy in Brief

Unemployment Rates on Varying Paths in Israel, Poland & Russia
by Carol Stone April 22, 2004

Labor market conditions are mixed in three countries reporting data today. Unemployment rates are high and/or rising in Israel and Poland, but easing in Russia. At the same time, employment patterns don't necessarily match the behavior of the unemployment rate.

In Israel, unemployment is climbing gradually, with March's 11.0% rate the highest in the eight-year history of these data. This is accompanied by divergent trends in measures of employment. The number of employed persons, a quarterly series, has been rising, as indicated in the accompanying chart. But the number of jobs, both including and excluding those offered to Palestinian Authority workers, has been basically flat for the last couple of years.

In Poland, where unemployment is also rising, employment data are the mirror image, falling markedly, as might be expected and generating the higher trend in unemployment. Notably, though, Poland's neighbors appear to be doing better, as employment in the Czech Republic is largely flat and mostly rising in Hungary and Slovakia.

Employment in Russia is also moving ahead, albeit somewhat erratically, while its unemployment rate is declining. Indeed, the progress in Russia looks favorable by other gauges as well, including production growth and GDP, with a distinct recovery evident beginning in 1999 after the country's plunge to debt default in 1998.

Yesterday, in this space, we cited evidence of the emergence of a broadening recovery in world trade. That should help jobs and unemployment conditions in many countries. Perhaps it's too early to expect this everywhere, but the mixed pattern in these countries today suggests that country-specific circumstances can get in the way, slowing desired improvements, even as neighboring nations do better.

Percent Mar Feb Jan Year Ago 2003 2002 2001
Israel (NSA) n.a. 11.0 10.9 10.5 10.7 10.4 9.4
Poland (SA) 19.6 19.6 19.8 19.7 19.9 17.8 16.2
Russia (SA) 7.7 7.6 7.6 8.6 8.5 8.0 9.0
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