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Economy in Brief

Employment Stabilizes in 3 Countries, but Unemployment Unimproved
by Carol Stone May 19, 2004

Labor market conditions have been mixed in several moderately sized economies in Europe and western Asia, which reported current figures today. In several of these nations, however, signs suggest that a stabilization has perhaps occurred, so that, as in the US, employment might gain more vigor in coming months.

In Kazakhstan, the unemployment rate actual fell during much of the last four years for which data are available. Economic activity there is oil-centered and recently strong consumption of petroleum and rising prices are a benefit to them. At the same time, the unemployment rate has now been basically flat for the past six months at 1.9%, just above its record low of 1.8%. So there has been a pause in the improvement and it will be interesting to see if the recent surge in oil prices gives the Kazakh economy a boost.

In the Netherlands, there has been considerable back-tracking of employment and a commensurate rise in the number unemployed. In fact, while employment has stabilized in the last six months, unemployment has continued rising. As seen in the graph, this is tied to further growth in the labor force, which extended a fairly steady trend throughout the history of these data, albeit only four years. Perhaps as happens in the US, the recently more stable employment picture is encouraging people to keep looking for jobs, rather than back away from the labor force.

Sweden and Denmark are seeing the first signs of a turnaround in employment. In both countries, the number employed was higher in the first quarter (Denmark) or in April (Sweden) than its year-ago value for the first time in many months. Denmark has seen a downtrend in jobs for nearly two years, and Sweden for 11 months. So while the gains are not large and have so far recouped little of the recent contraction in employment, they lend hope of more favorable conditions to come.

  Apr 2004 Mar 2004 Feb 2004 Year Ago 2003 2002 2001
Kazakhstan:Unemployment Rate (%) N.A.* 1.9 1.9 2.6 2.3 3.2 3.1
Netherlands:Employment (SA, Thous) N.A. 7093 7090 7132 7114 7125 7062
Unemployed (SA, Thous) N.A. 482 483 369 397 302 352
Denmark:Employment (NSA, Thous) N.A. 2680 N.A. 2667 2693 2712 2723
Sweden:Employment (NSA, Thous) 4209 N.A. N.A. 4203 4232 4242 4239
Unemployment Rate (NSA, %) 5.4 N.A. N.A. 4.6 4.9 4.0 4.0
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