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Fewer job seekers lower unemployment

A file photo shows workers at a San Juan autoparts factory.
By Francisco Aldaya
Herald staff

INDEC reports drop in jobless rate to 6.4 percent in fourth quarter of 2013

Argentina’s unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, down from 6.9 percent in the same period of 2012 and 6.8 percent in the third quarter, the INDEC statistics bureau stated in a report on yesterday.

The drop was largely explained not by greater employment however, but by a significant 1.1 percent drop in underemployment, which partly reflects those in part-time employment who want more hours. Therefore, less people were out hunting on the job market.

That unemployment actually rose in most part of the countries, with the densely populated Buenos Aires area driving the general fall, will also be troublesome.

The underemployment rate, defined by INDEC as those who work less than 35 hours per week, fell from nine percent during the fourth quarter last year, thus dropping 1.2 percent from the level registered at the end of the same period in 2012.

The statistics mean that 2.5 million persons out of an economically active 18 million suffer employment-related problems.

Out of that 2.5 million, 1.1 million are unemployed, while 1.4 million are underemployed.

The latter classification has two sub-categories: out of the total 7.8 percent, those underemployed in demand, or who wish to work more hours, represent 5.1 percent of people above the working age, while those satisfied with their hours 2.7 percent.

The activity rate — calculated as the percentage between the economically active population and the total population, was reduced by 0.7 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2012.

According to INDEC, the Argentine economy saw growth of 4.5 percent during the fourth quarter last year, about two percent above most private estimates.

In a more immediate comparison, matched up to the third quarter last year, unemployment fell by 0.4 percent from 6.8 percent to 6.4, while underemployment dropped 1.1 percent from 8.7 percent registered in that period of 2012.

The report on the chief indicators of the labour market was elaborated in conjunction with data collected by the Permanent Homes Survey (EPH), the national programme organized by INDEC, as well as the Directorate of Provincial Statistics (DPE), which surveys the sociodemographic and socioeconomic characteristics of the population.

Retraction and growth

Jorge Colina, an economist at the IDESA consultancy, told the Herald that INDEC’s unemployment figures are considered reliable, unlike the bureau’s recent track record on inflation.

“However, the explanation of this drop is slashed activity rates, which have led people who were looking for jobs, mainly women and young people, to retract and stop looking,” Colina said.

Asked about the effect of welfare programmes on the unemployment rate, the economist confirmed that “very few people are still subscribed to the Jefas y Jefes de Hogar (Heads of Household) scheme,” as it has been reworked in the shape of the current Argentina Trabaja plan.

“These persons are classified as self-employed, but in theory they are workers, as they are usually required to carry out social work,” Colina added.

University of Buenos Aires and Society for Social Development (SID) economist Mariano Kestelboim saw matters from another angle.

“In 2013, the Argentine economy grew slightly above five percent, which translates into higher employment demand,” Kestelboim upheld, emphasizing “the lowest rate of unemployment in the last 25 years; this is important news.”

Asked if a lower GDP growth forecast for the year ahead would bring down the amount of people able to secure monthly paychecks, the economist agreed that “activity will not grow as it did last year, and eventually there will be some stagnation or a slight recession, particularly if economic policies are adjusted,” a reference to the subsidies reduction expected in the near future.

Same old GBA story

In the Greater Buenos Aires area, which includes this capital city, unemployment fell from 7.7 to 6.5 percent in the inter-annual fourth quarterly comparison.

There was a rise in the Patagonia area, however, were the jobless increased from 4.1 to 5.5 percent in number.

Similarly, there was a general surge in unemployment in the interior of the country without including the Buenos Aires area from 5.8 to 6.3 percent during the same period.

In the Pampean region, which includes Argentina’s second largest city, Córdoba, the jobless also increased from 7.3 to 7.8 percent.

@franma1990

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