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Core unemployment rises as monthly figure falls.

Byline: Charles Charalambous

THE NUMBER of officially-registered unemployed rose 64 per cent compared to May 2008 and now stands at 15,158, according to figures released on Thursday by the Statistical Service.

The figure for the period January-May was 37 per cent up on the equivalent period last year.

The monthly figure for May showed a drop of 948 from April's high of 16,106, largely due to the seasonal return to work of hotel and restaurant workers, plus a reduction in the number of unemployed public administrators.

One worrying aspect in terms of social impact is the fact that almost 43 per cent of the May total are heads of families in the 30-49 age group.

The 6,000 rise compared to last year occurred mainly in construction (up by 1,815), retail (up 970), hotels and restaurants (705), real estate and business services (614) and processing (494).

The latest figures drew criticism from DISY Vice Chairman Averoff Neophytou, who said that "unemployment is a problem for us, even though the government continues to prettify the situation".

Labour Minister Sotiroulla Charalambous rejected Neophytou's criticism, saying late on Thursday that comparing the latest figures to May 2008 "without taking into account the various worldwide economic conditions, and the impact these have on the growth rate, can only be interpreted as an attempt to nullify and disorientate."

She added: "The government cares about citizens, and its aim is to maintain low levels of unemployment. The measures we have announced are producing results, which is demonstrated by the fact that for the second successive month the hotel and tourism industry has absorbed more unemployed workers."

Some 22 per cent of the total May figure are officially classified as cleaners, junior office staff and unskilled workers.

The SEK trade union said in a press statement that "the fact that a large proportion of unemployed are unskilled workers is not unrelated to the employment of foreign workers", mainly from countries outside the European Union.

SEK called for an intensification of attempts to clamp down on illegal employment, and an acceleration of public sector projects in such as way as to create new legal employment opportunities.

Meanwhile, the trade unions have agreed to a decrease from 1 July in the automatic wage indexation system known as CoLA (ATA in Greek). This will be the first decrease since 1999, and is due to a fall in the basic cost of living this year compared to the second half of last year. The difference will be of the order of 1.5 per cent of low wages and around 5.8 per cent on average wages.

This will be the second drop in earnings for employees, following the 0.5 per cent increase in social security contributions introduced on 1 April.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Jun 7, 2009
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