Employment increases, unemployment falls
New figures presented in the revised national Budget in May 1997 show that employment in Norway has increased faster than earlier estimates predicted, and that unemployment is continuously decreasing. Growth in prices and wages is expected to be moderate for both 1997 and 1998.
In connection with the presentation of the revised national Budget for 1997, the Government estimates that the number of persons in employment will increase by 45,000 from 1996 to 1997. This estimate, presented in May 199,7 is 15,000 persons higher than the Government's estimate issued in connection with the state Budget in December 1996. The Norwegian employment rate has never been higher.
The fall in unemployment is also continuing; from the first quarter in 1996 to the first quarter in 1997, the number of unemployed people fell by 25,000 (according to survey-based figures). For 1997, the unemployment rate is estimated to be approximately 4% - 0.9 points down on the 1996 rate. The fall in unemployment has been the strongest for men under the age of 55 years. The number of persons on job-creation schemes is also lower in 1997 than in 1996, while the number of long-term unemployed people has also decreased.
In the revised national Budget, a point is made of the fact that the strong growth in employment has led to a tighter labour market. Labour scarcity is strongest in central areas around Oslo, and there are labour shortages in the building and construction sector and in the healthcare sector. The Norwegian Labour Exchanges are trying to recruit health personnel from Sweden and Finland, while the building and construction sector is also seeing an increase in use of labour from Norway's neighbouring countries.
So far, the positive developments with regard to employment do not seem to have led to stronger wage or price growth than first anticipated. On the basis of the wage settlement in the private sector (NO9704108F), the Government estimates, however, that total wage growth will be approximately 3.5%. For the same period the consumer price index is expected to rise by 2.5%.