Norway’s state welfare agency NAV is bracing for a rush of applications from laid-off workers filing for unemployment benefits. NAV predicts another 10,000 Norwegians will register as unemployed next year, but there are new jobs to be found and those laid off may need to move in order to find new work.
The unemployment predictions are high for a small country like Norway that’s enjoyed an economic boom in recent years. That boom seems to be moving quickly towards bust, because of relatively low oil prices in an economy dependent on its oil and oil supply industry.
Rogaland County on the west coast, home to much of Norway’s oil industry, is already seeing a steep increase in the numbers of those losing their jobs. Not all of them register themselves as unemployed, but NAV believes many ultimately will, when they find it difficult to find jobs on their own.
Numbers presented by NAV late last week indicate that the agency expects 85,000 to be registered as looking for work and claiming benefits this year, with that rising to 95,000 in 2016 and 2017. It’s been more than 10 years since the numbers have been so high.
Norway’s state statistics bureau SSB released figures last week as well, putting the unemployment rate at 4.6 percent. That’s low compared to other countries, but up from less than 3 percent in recent years.
Go where the jobs are
NAV’s new director Sigrun Vågeng suggests the situation isn’t entirely bleak, however. “Lower oil investments will lead to higher unemployment in parts of the country, while the weak krone and low interest rates will lead to increased activity in the export sector,” she told state broadcaster NRK. “The vast majority of those losing their jobs (in the oil and offshore industry) have high competence and therefore good prospects in the labour market. They should quickly apply for other jobs or look at new jobs in other parts of the country.”
Vågeng topped news broadcasts during the weekend after also suggesting to newspaper Dagens Næriingsliv (DN) that those losing their jobs in one city may be forced to move to another to find work. Backed by Labour Minister Robert Eriksson of the Progress Party, Vågeng warned that it will become tougher to secure unemployment benefits if a job seeker has refused to consider or turned down a job offer that requires relocation.
“We will tell people that they can find work other places,” Vågeng told DN. She noted, for example, that while unemployment is rising along the coast from Agder in the south to Trøndelag, there’s demand for workers “in for example, Northern Norway and Oppland, which I just visited.” She added that much of Norway’s “traditional industry is investing, is doing well because of the weak krone and has jobs to offer.” The state is also investing in major road, rail and other construction and renovation projects, and will need engineers.
“That’s why we think unemployment will turn (start to decline again) in 2017,” Vågeng told DN. NAV’s researchers predict unemployment, as measured in the numbers of those actually filing for benefits, will top out at 95,000 during the next year, and that the unemployment rate will begin to decline from 2017. They based their predictions on reports from the oil sector that also indicate a pick-up in oil investments in 2018.