Despite improvement, joblessness still 'high'

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Remarking upon record-low unemployment figures released July 4 by the State Employment Agency (NVA), a "still considerably high" percentage – 8.8% of Latvia’s workforce remains unemployed, NVA head Inese Kalvane said in an interview with Latvian Public Radio's (LR) morning news program Panorama Tuesday.

Despite having inched back down to pre-crisis levels from 9.3% since the beginning of the year, “the unemployment rate is still very high, but at least it doesn’t seem to be growing,” the agency director said. Kalvane also noted significant regional differences and seasonal fluctuations in the data, with Riga, Ventspils and Jelgava being the best-prospect job-markets and Rezekne and Liepaja the worst towns to be out of work in Latvia.

Kalvane said that piloted mobility support payments have not brought the expected dividends for job-seekers. “Apparently it’s not that easy to leave home for up to 10 hours a day, including the commute,” she admitted. The monthly 280-lat (€398 euro) payments were intended to provide additional incentive for scattered rural residents to seek employment further from home, but the boosts last only four months, after which salaries are expected to increase upon the customary end of a new employee’s probation period.

As of mid-June only 68 formerly jobless people signed up for the mobility support payments, a ratio of one in seven formally registered job hunters. Altogether 98,000 lats (€69,000 euro) were earmarked for the program, which could provide such benefits to at least 350 unemployed persons. However, the long-term unemployed have shown little interest in the pilot program, the Welfare Ministry's Job Market Policy Department senior expert Līga Emule-Konone told LR on June 18.

Meanwhile employers continue to seek workers for vacancies in sales, food preparation and welding. Amongst higher-qualified workers the greatest demand is for IT specialists.

Youth unemployment remains another troubling figure. Of all job-seekers registered with the NVA, 9% are from the ages of 15 to 23.

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