The Czech unemployment rate increased to 10.3 % in December from 9.9 % one month earlier, the Labor Ministry reported on Friday.
The figure is in line with analysts' estimates.
By the end of December, job centers registered a total of 542,420 job seekers, which is 21,385 more than at the end of November 2003. Compared with the same period of the preceding year, the number of job seekers increased by 27,985.
In December, job centers registered a total of 57,454 newcomers, or 9,831 more than in the previous month.
The lowest unemployment rate was seen in the districts of Prague-West (3.0 %), Prague-East (3.8 %) and Prague (4.0 %). An unemployment rate higher than the Czech average was registered in 32 districts, the highest being in Most (23.5 %), Karvina (20.4 %), and Teplice (19.9 %).
In December 2003, job centers paid out unemployment benefits to 189,479 job seekers, or 35 % of all registered job seekers.
Analysts expect the unemployment rate to rise further in January. “With the labor market remaining over-regulated, increasing tax and social security burdens for self-employed entrepreneurs as of January 2004, the still relatively soft social system and labor costs on the high side, the unemployment rate lacks any positive stimulus for decline,” Ceska sporitelna analysts say.