Unemployment across Chile grew 0.2% in the last quarter (Oct-Dec) to stand at 7.3% nationally. That equates to 22,000 extra people who are without an income from the end of last year.
The figures have been greatly affected by an increase in first-time job seekers, which showed the highest growth in over a year, likely driven by recent graduates.
The government is hoping economic growth will offset the demand for jobs in the coming months.
“Job creation is quite dynamic, so we hope to be absorbed,” said Rodrigo Cerda, macroeconomic advisor to the Ministry of Finance. Unemployment fell in five regions, increased in eight and remained constant in two others.
Valparaíso has the highest rate of unemployment, currently at 9.2%, while Aysén has the lowest at 4%. Employment in the Metropolitan region, which includes Santiago, grew 0.3 percentage points in the same time frame.
The agricultural sector showed the biggest increase in job creation, rising 4.4%.
Overall unemployment averaged out at 8.1% in 2010. This is expected to fall this year to around 7.5%, according to César Guzmán of Security Investment.
This continues the pattern of increased employment in Chile with unemployment averaging around 10% in 2009.
The latest set of economic indicators point to a strong economy.
New figures relating to transactions show retail sales up 15.5% in January. Sales of durable goods such as cars and large electrical appliances were up 31.7% in January.
Juan Pablo Castro, an analyst with Santander Bank, said the Chilean economy remains driven by consumption, with consumer credit expanding. He also noted that for third consecutive month the percentage of wages spent increased by 1%.
By Mark Briggs – Santiago Times