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ECONOMIC BRIEFS

Labor Office expects unemployment to reach or exceed 20%

For the first time in the Slovakia's six year history, the unemployment rate did not decrease in March when farm workers return to their jobs. Instead, the number of the jobless increased to 470,000 people and the unemployment rate reached a record level of 17.6%, the National Labor Office reported.

And things are due to get worse. According to the Labor Office, the best-case scenerio for Slovakia, if the development of Slovakia's economy stabilizes, would be that the average number of jobless will be 460,000 in 1999, and culminate between 520,000 and 530,000 at the end of the year. This accounts for a 19.5-19.85 unemployment.

However, a pessimistic, but "probably realistic alternative," of the development assumes a rise of unemployment to 21 - 22%, meaning that 560,000 to 590,000 in the country would be out of work, said Pavel Tomasta, director of the National Labor Office's Department of Analyses, Concepts and Strategy.

Unemployment in Slovakia is significantly higher than in neighboring countries. In the Czech Republic it is 8-9%, in Hungary 9-10%, Poland 11% and Austria 7%.

Moreover, in some regions in Slovakia, unemployment has already exceeded 20%. If the economic situation in Slovakia deteriorates, there is a danger that Slovakia will report the highest unemployment rate in Europe and replace Spain in this position.

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