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Iran’s jobless rate rise to 12.5% – paper

Posted on: April 19, 2009


Reuters – Friday, April 17

TEHRAN, April 16 – Iran’s unemployment rate rose to 12.5 percent during the winter, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Mohammad Jahromi said in remarks published on Thursday.

But business daily Sarmayeh, citing Jahromi and official statistics, said the average jobless rate for the Iranian year that ended on March 20 still showed a decline, to 10.4 percent, from the previous year. It did not give a comparison.

Higher unemployment would come as bad news for conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is expected to seek a second four-year term in a June presidential election in the world’s fourth-largest oil producer.

Ahmadinejad’s government, facing mounting criticism from reformist opponents and sections of the media over its economic policies, had previously said the rate had fallen to below 10 percent in the country of 70 million people.

Former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, who is expected to be Ahmadinejad’s main challenger in the June vote, told the Financial Times this week that his economic priorities were “inflation, unemployment and the improvement of business”.

Sarmayeh quoted Jahromi as saying: “The unemployment rate, as announced by the Statistics Centre, for winter stood at 12.5 percent.”

He did not give comparisons, but Sarmayeh said data from the Iranian statistics office showed that this rate was three percentage points higher than the previous quarter. From the previous winter period, it rose by 0.6 percentage points.

Sarmayeh did not say why the jobless rate had risen or whether it was in part a seasonal effect. Iranian officials usually refer to the December-March period when they talk about winter.

Like other oil exporters, Iran is facing declining export revenue after oil prices plunged from a peak of $147 a barrel in Mid-2008 to around $50 now.

The Mehr News Agency in March quoted Jahromi as saying:

“The country is in need of creating 1.2 million new jobs annually … and in the absence of this many new jobs, the unemployment rate will rise.”

Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 on a pledge to share Iran’s oil wealth more fairly but reformist critics blame him for squandering windfall crude income earned in recent years and fuelling inflation.

They say the government has drawn down its reserves even during good times, including from a fund designed to help at times of falling oil prices, such as now.

Ahmadinejad has rejected the criticism. In a positive development for his administration, the official inflation rate has fallen to less than 18 percent from a peak of nearly 30 percent in 2008. [ID:nDAH840664]

(Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Toby Chopra) ((fredrik.dahl@thomsonreuters.com; Tehran newsroom +98 21 8820 8770)) Keywords: IRAN UNEMPLOYMENT/

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