ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s unemployment rate jumped to a record high of 16.1 percent in the January-March period, due to a sharp contraction in the economy, the Turkish Statistics Institute said on Friday.
The unemployment rate, measured on a three-month moving average, stood at 15.5 percent from December to February and 11.9 percent in the January-March period a year earlier.
Analysts are forecasting that Turkey’s economic slump probably deepened in the first quarter of 2009, with the slow-down in GDP likely reaching double figures.
The global economic crisis has hit Turkey hard and the International Monetary Fund expects the country’s economy to shrink 5.1 percent this year.
The government has taken measures including cutting social security premiums by 5 percentage points to encourage firms to retain their workers, but weak demand and tumbling exports have raised lay-offs.
Turkey has a young, rapidly growing population of more than 70 million, fuelling fears that social tensions may result from prolonged, high unemployment.
The government has said it would reject the International Monetary Fund’s requests to curb public spending in negotiations over a major loan deal, because this would exacerbate the slowdown in the economy and leave more people without jobs.
The data showed that non-farm unemployment rate jumped to 19.8 percent in the January-March period this year from 14.2 percent last year.
Younger Turks are especially vulnerable with 28.6 percent of them unemployed, a growing concern for the government.
In a sign that the unemployment rate may keep rising in the second quarter, April data from the state unemployment agency Iskur showed this month that jobless claims swelled 51.50 percent year-on-year to 111,623.
The government expects a 13.5 percent unemployment rate for 2009.