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PostSubject: Bulgaria unemployment gathers record momentum   Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:36 am

[size=75:1hicwjz9]Dnevnik 22 February 2010

Bulgaria unemployment gathers record momentum

The bleak forecasts by employers and the National Employment Agency (NEA) that Bulgaria’s job market will take a turn for the worse in early 2010 started to materialise as almost 28,000 got the chop in January.

This is a staggering increase from jobless numbers reported so far, when up to 17,000 workers went to the dole per month.

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits has crept up to 366,887, representing 9.9% of the workforce.

The dour situation on the job front is stoking fears of job loss and shrinking income, according to local pollster Alpha Research. As a result, people are finding it hard to repay their loans, with 59 percent of the borrowers polled by the agency saying they are struggling with installments and a further 12 percent admitting they have stopped payments altogether.

NEA executive director Rositsa Steliyanova told Dnevnik in an interview late last year that employers usually wait until the Christmas and New Year holidays have passed before taking the axe.

Business representatives approached for comment by Dnevnik pegged the bulk of the blame for the soaring unemployment on the delay in government and municipal payments on completed projects.

In end last week prime minister Boyko Borissov told Parliament the state has run up roughly BGN 500 million in debt to private contractors. But on Sunday deputy finance minister Vladislav Goranov told the Bulgarian National Radio the amount stands at BGN 600 million.

Furthermore, the state owes companies more than BGN 500 million in value-added tax (VAT) reimbursements.

Businesses make much bigger calculations.

“Figures by the construction chamber show sector companies should be paid around BGN 500 million. The state and municipalities owe a further BGN 450 million to drug suppliers,” Evgenii Ivanov, executive director of the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (CEIBG). An additional BGN 200 million have not been invoiced, he added.

The employment agency expects unemployment to accelerate faster until March but employers are less upbeat. Vasil Velev, hairman of the Bulgarian Industrial Capital Association (BICA), predicted the trend will continue through the second quarter and turnaround is hardly possible before the summer.

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