The numbers of Norway’s jobless residents swelled to 124,000 in June, according to new seasonally adjusted numbers released Wednesday by state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway). That boosted the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, double the number just a few years ago.
Norway had been enjoying record low unemployment for years, after high oil prices set off an economic boom in the country’s oil-fueled economy. Now, with oil prices down to a third of what they were in the boom years, increasing numbers of companies in the oil sector are laying off workers as orders dry up and offshore supply firms are left idle.
Rise in total employment also
SSB’s numbers include both the numbers of unemployed people registering for assistance from state welfare agency NAV and those who’ve lost their jobs but haven’t claimed benefits, at least not yet.
SSB reported that another 8,000 people lost their jobs between the period from February-April and May-July. That boosted the unemployment rate by a third of a percentage point. SSB also reported that the unemployment rate among those looking for work who are under age 25 is now 10.7 percent.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the rise comes even though the total number of people employed in Norway rose by 11,000. That indicates new job creation, but not at a level strong enough to offset all the job losses in the oil and offshore industry that now are spreading to other sectors.
Erik Herstad Horgen of SSB noted, however, that part of the reason the unemployment rate rose is that there’s been an increase in the numbers of young Norwegians (under 25) who want a job but can’t find one. The jobless rate isn’t, he told NRK, entirely a result of “very many people losing their jobs.”
‘Higher than expected’
Steinar Juel, chief economist at Nordea Markets, called the new unemployment numbers “higher than expected,” but told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) there was no “huge reason to start jumping up on a chair yet.” He also noted, like Horgen, that SSB’s figures show an increase in the numbers of people looking for work, and that there has been an increase in total employment.
That may comfort Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who claimed earlier Wednesday on her way to her government’s state budget conference that Norway is not in any crisis yet despite turbulent markets and job cuts in the oil business. More than 700 more jobs disappeared just this summer.
Labour Minister Robert Eriksson told NRK that he can nonetheless understand that Norwegian workers are worried. “Unemployment is high and rising,” he said. “I have undertanding for everyone who’s uneasy and uncertain about whether they’re still going to have a job to go to. It’s something the government is taking seriously, and we are working on both short- and long-term measures to combat unemployment.”