TALLINN - The unemployment rate in Estonia has reached record highs as the real estate and construction industries undergo mass layoffs.
The increase in unemployment is closely connected to the collapse of the real estate market, experts say, which has left up to 6,000 people out of a job. Another factor contributing to the increase is the high number of companies filing bankruptcy.
"The number of unemployed people has never been as low as it was last year" said Nele Labi, of the Estonian Labor Office.
Labi was still hopeful about the employment situation, however, saying that most of the recently unemployed should be able to find work again quickly.
"Before, everybody knew if they wanted to have a job they could get it. Right now it's just temporary low tide for the labor market, but there's nothing to worry about," she said.
Catrin Plaser, general manager of the job seeking Web site hyppelaud.ee, agreed that though the situation is bad things will soon turn around.
"The situation on the market is different than one year, half a year ago. Then it was dictated by jobseekers, it was hard to find a qualified worker," he said.
Right now it costs less for a company to hire an employee because more people are searching for jobs 's making it easier to find a qualified worker in a shorter amount of time.
While it's still not easy to find a job in construction or the real estate business, more vacancies in the industrial field have recently been opening up.
For a jobseeker, however, the situation is harder than a year ago and appears to be getting even worse. The country suffers from a lack of skilled laborers, specialists, medical workers and hairdressers 's just to name a few.
There is always the need for skilled workers, and the Labor Office is there to help place any unskilled workers.
"A university degree is easy to achieve, resulting in numerous accountants and business managers who cannot find a job matching their degree. Graduates then end up working as a salesperson in a supermarket [for example]. And some skilled workers can earn more than an office worker with a bachelors degree," Plaser said.
The Estonian Labor Office has never actively offered their services, but lately that has started to change. Now, the office also offers its services to those who don't want to be registered as unemployed. There are around 1000-1500 people without a job who choose not to be registered as unemployed.
Though healthy workers face difficult days, in recent years it has become easier for the handicapped to find a job. The Labor Office can help fund the special equipment needed 's and often a handicapped person is more loyal to the company.
In February 2008, Estonia had 16,740 unemployed people 's 2,550 more than in February last year. Nele predicted that it will increase by as much as 5,000 people, but that the rise will be offset by a labor shortage in other sectors.