Hungary’s rolling average three-month jobless rate was 3.7% in November-January, inching up from the previous three-month period, the Central Statistical Office (KSH) said on Wednesday. The rate covers unemployment among those between the ages of 15 and 74. In absolute terms, there were 169,800 unemployed, 2,600 more than in the previous period and 3,900 fewer than a year earlier. The unemployment rate in the 15-24 age group was almost unchanged at 11.4%. The unemployed in this age group account for more than one-fifth of all jobless, KSH noted.
Commenting on the data, the finance ministry’s state secretary for employment, Sándor Bodó, said the government’s aim was to bring the unemployment rate down to around 3%. The Hungarian economy still has labour reserves of about 500,000, he told public news channel M1, adding that specific measures and training schemes were needed to push those people back into the workforce. The finance ministry said in a statement that Hungary has the fifth lowest jobless rate in the European Union. The economy has gained nearly 800,000 jobs since 2010, and Hungary has enjoyed the third fastest growing employment rate after Malta and Lithuania during this period, it said.
Analysts interviewed by MTI said Hungary has “reached full employment” and any further reductions in unemployment would require labour market reforms. ING Bank chief analyst Péter Virovácz forecast an unemployment rate of 3.6% for the full year. He said a saturated labour market could further boost wage growth and corporate investment. Takarékbank senior analyst Gergely Suppan said the jobs market was reaching its limits for expansion, adding that further meaningful changes would require policy intervention. Orsolya Nyeste of Erste Bank said the data still reflected a strong labour market. This is expected to promote further wage growth, albeit at a slower pace than last year, she said.