Unemployment figures ‘tragic’

Aftenposten, 04 September 2003, 16:31 (GMT+1)

Unemployment figures released by the Labor Market Administration Aetat for August revealed the highest numbers out of work since 1996. Labor Party leader Jens Stoltenberg called the statistics tragic, and laid the blame squarely on the current government.

There are now 101,791 unemployed, 4.3 percent of the work force, and an increase of 23 percent compared to August 2002. It is the first time since 1996 that over 100,000 people are unemployed in Norway.

Three counties now have unemployment rates over five percent, Finnmark (6.2), Oslo (5.4) and Aust-Agder (5.2).

The government must take the responsibility for the serious situation we are in now. They closed their eyes. The Minister of Industry had an empty toolbox, the Finance Minister thought his office looked worse than the job market and the prime minister accused those of us who tried to sound a warning of being pessimists, Stoltenberg said.

The Center Party's business policy spokesman, Morten Lund, agreed with Stoltenberg's assessment of government paralysis being to blame.

Now the government must give a powerful signal that it cares about the unemployed, Lund said. The head of YS Stat, the Confederation of Vocational Unions for State Employees, was concerned by Oslo being one of the hardest hit counties while the government was working to move all state jobs out of the capital.