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Turkey's unemployment up slightly to 9.4 pct

The Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) said in its study that the economy added 1.24 million jobs since November of last year, but added that the increase wasn't enough to keep up with population growth. The number of unemployed increased by 201,000 year-on-year, putting the number of Turks out of work at 2.63 million, 0.3 percent higher than in November 2011. Unemployment also grew 0.1 percent month-on-month from 9.3 percent in October 2012. The report comes despite news this week that the Turkish economy managed 2.5 percent growth this year, below Ankara's expectations of 3 percent but far better than the 2.3 percent contraction in the eurozone's gross domestic product (GDP) last year. Turkey's unemployment rate has hovered around 9 percent for the past two years, and unemployment hasn't gone below 8 percent since a banking crisis rattled its economy in 2001. Non-agricultural unemployment, meanwhile, grew 0.3 percent to 11.7 percent over 2011. Those numbers were in line with an independent study of non-agricultural employment data also released on Friday by the Bahçeşehir University Center for Economic and Social Research (BETAM). The study said non-agricultural unemployment was 11.8 percent in November 2012, slightly higher than 11.6 percent in November of 2011. Turkey's agriculture industry is one of its most labor-intensive industries, making up 23.8 percent of the workforce in November, while 19 percent worked in industry, 7.2 percent in construction and 50 percent in the service sector. While both the TurkStat and BETAM reports said that agriculture and construction saw appreciable declines in employment, they said industry and services saw small gains.

According to government statistics, the month also saw youth unemployment increase by 1.8 percent year-on-year to 18.8 percent. The report meanwhile saw a modest improvement in the percentage of women in the workforce, which grew year-on-year by 1.9 percent to 30.2 percent. Total labor force participation grew over the same period by 1.3 percent to 50.7 percent.

On Friday, the government also claimed a victory in reducing the number of unregistered workers, reporting that 2.2 percent more of the workforce paid into the state's social security program. Government estimates of the underground economy nevertheless suggested that 38.5 percent of the workforce still works without any government regulation or benefits.

Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan has received criticism for stagnant employment numbers as the economy continues to grow, a trend he has said should be contrasted with the overall employment situation in Europe. "When we examine the economic situation in the world, I take our employment rate results as successful,” he told the press last month when similar employment data were released. The minister said that unemployment would drop “to 6 to 7 percent over the medium or long term,” though a decade of 9 to 10 percent unemployment rates amid high growth numbers have made many skeptical that unemployment will drop to 6 or 7 percent even if the economy does return to higher levels of growth in 2013.

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