Middle East

Turkish unemployment jumps to highest rate in nearly a decade

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey’s unemployment rate surged to 14.7 percent in the December-February period, its highest level in nearly a decade according to official data on Monday, as the effects of last year’s currency crisis continued to weigh on workers.

The jobless rate was up from 13.5 percent in the previous period ending in January, and it included a jump in youth unemployment to its highest level since at least 2005.

The Turkish economy contracted a sharper than expected 3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, its worst performance in nearly a decade, indicating that last year’s near 30 percent slide in the lira had tipped it into recession.

Both President Tayyip Erdogan and his son-in-law Finance Minister Berat Albayrak have said Turkey has left the worst of its economic troubles behind, and Albayrak last week announced a series of structural measures to prop up the ailing economy.

Inflation has slipped from last year’s high but remains elevated, and the country’s current account deficit has narrowed sharply.

However, the number of people registered as unemployed rose to 4.67 million in the three months to February, a surge of more than one million from a year earlier, data from the Turkish Statistics Institute showed.

Non-agricultural unemployment stood at 16.8 percent in the same period, the data showed, jumping from 15.6 percent in the November-January period.

In February, the government and Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges launched a campaign to boost employment, which they said will provide jobs for 2.5 million people.

But Turkish unemployment was expected to continue rising in the months ahead and weigh on private consumption and investment, ratings agency Moody’s said in March.

Tatha Ghose, senior emerging markets economist at Commerzbank, said: “The labor market is a lagging indicator and we all know Turkey is in a recession, and until that changes, unemployment is expected to go up.”

“It should go up further as the recovery has not yet taken hold and will continue rising at least until July or August. It will get worse before it gets better,” Ghose said.

In the three months to February, the unemployment rate among people aged 15-24 rose to 26.7 percent, its highest level since the data became available in 2005, the data showed.

Overall unemployment last stood at 14.7 percent in the February-April period of 2009.

Reporting by Behiye Selin Taner; Additional reporting by Tom Arnold; Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Dominic Evans and Jonathan Spicer

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