There’s been another rush of good economic news for Norway, just a week ahead of Monday’s parliamentary elections. The crisis in Southwestern Norway that was set off by the collapse in oil prices has also been called off, by the chief economist of the region’s largest bank.
New numbers for August show that unemployment fell for the ninth month in a row, with 1,400 fewer people in the jobless queue and the national unemployment rate now down to 2.7 percent. Before that news was released by state welfare agency NAV, it had also reported that the number of warnings the agency had received from companies planning layoffs was down by half.
All the key categories of important numbers appearing on the front page of newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) were also showing green arrows pointing upwards on Tuesday. The Oslo Stock Exchange was up, the price of Norway’s North Sea crude oil was up (to USD 52.66) and Norway’s krone was stronger against all four key currencies (the US dollar, the euro, the British pound and Swedish krone), even though that can make exports more expensive.
Housing prices, meanwhile, either sunk slightly or were steady from July to August, but since they’d earlier hit such record highs, the decline is widely viewed as good news as well. The conservative government coalition now running for re-election imposed tougher lending requirements from January 1 that were specifically aimed at cooling off an overheated real estate market, and they appear to be working.
Sparebank 1 SR-Bank in Stavanger could also report the results of a new survey this week showing that for the first time since oil prices fell in 2014, oil industry leaders in the southwestern counties of Agder, Rogaland and Hordaland are more optimistic about the future than leaders in other industries. “This is a strong signal that we’ve bottomed out,” Kyrre Knudsen, chief economist at the bank, told DN. “In May the companies reported that there was still a decline in activity. Now they’re actually experiencing a stabilizaiton and expectations of an upturn.”
“The crisis is over in Sør- and Vestlandet,” claimed Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who was on hand for the report’s release. “The companies have done a great job of cutting costs, and there has been a restructuring within the industry.”
Knudsen agreed. “The downturn is really over,” he told DN.