Budapest, March 28 (MTI) – The average unemployment rate among Hungarians between the ages of 15 and 74 was 8.6 percent in December-February, the Central Statistical Office (KSH) said today.
The rate was the lowest registered in the age group since a 8.4 percent rate between November 2008 and January 2009. The jobless rate was down from 8.9 percent in November-January and from 11.6 percent in the same period a year earlier. The employment rate, at 53.2 percent, also rose to its highest level measured since the start of 2008.
The government’s winter public work-programme affects 200,000 people, half of whom are involved in a European Union-funded training programme.
The number of employed averaged 4,052,800 in December-February, the highest number since the start of the time series in 2008. The figure rose by 22,600 from November-January and was up 235,600 in one year.
The activity rate rose to 58.2 percent after stagnating at 58.0 percent for five consecutive three-month periods. There were 379,400 unemployed in the 15-74 age group in December-February, 13,100 less than the average in the previous three-month period and 122,500 less than a year earlier.
The jobless number included 266,100 between the ages of 25 and 54.
Analysts polled by MTI welcomed that unemployment was down, but added that the improvement was mostly due to public works schemes.
Erste Bank senior analyst Gergely Gabler said that public works had greatly contributed to a higher employment figure, but noted that there was noticeable improvement in the private sector, too. “A tendency of improvement has started but it is not as spectacular as the main figures suggest,” Gabler said.
Buda-Cash analyst Zoltan Reczey said that though the latest figures have been better than expected, they followed from a higher number of people involved in public works, while improvement in the private sector was “a lot more modest”. Public works schemes cannot provide a long-term solution and it is not certain if people in those programmes can find a job in the private sector later on, he added. From a government point of view, public works are better than having to pay unemployment benefits, but worse than companies paying wages to those people, he argued.
Hungary has made a big step in lowering unemployment, ruling Fidesz lawmaker Gergely Gulyas said and noted that unemployment among young people fell by 6 percent in a year. Full employment, a government pledge, has been practically reached in western Hungary, as unemployment fell below 3 percent in Gyor-Moson-Sopron county, he added.
The radical nationalist Jobbik party said that the improved figures were good for government propaganda but did not reflect reality. Jobbik lawmaker Szilvia Bertha said in a statement that apart from registered job-seekers, people in public works schemes, people working in other countries, as well as some 500,000 people that are no longer registered but without employment should all be considered as jobless.
In its statement, Jobbik called on the government and the Central Statistical Office to provide figures “that realistically represent unemployment as generally seen by the people”.