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Central and Eastern Europe See Record Low Unemployment

Despite strong growth, region’s economies still struggle to create skilled jobs and retain young workers.

3 July 2018

In May, the European Union’s unemployment rate fell to 7 percent from 7.7 percent in May 2017. The last time rates were this low was in 2007, before the financial crisis.


Overall, “the labor market in the EU is at its best in years,” the Financial Times writes.


The newer member states in Central and Eastern Europe are driving the trend.


The Czech Republic has the lowest unemployment rate in the EU with 2.3 percent. Germany follows with 3.4 percent, and Hungary is third lowest at 3.7 percent, Business Review reports, citing Eurostat.


Five of the 10 member states with the lowest jobless rates are from the region, where just two countries – Latvia and Croatia – recorded a rate above the EU average of 7.0 percent.

Even though economic growth slowed this year compared to 2017, the EU’s “strongest growth in a decade … is set to continue this year and next,” EU commissioner for economic and financial affairs Pierre Moscovici boasted.


Real wages are expected to grow at the fastest pace in a decade, although they are forecast to rise only a modest 1.2 percent in the bloc, the FT says.


Southern Europe remains the laggard: Greece has a 20.1 percent unemployment rate, the highest in the EU, and Spain follows with 15.8 percent.



  • The booming Czech economy is luring workers from Greece, Spain, and Italy seeking work abroad due to the high unemployment rates these countries face, Radio Praha reports. Czech companies are lacking as many as 300,000 employees, according to the Czech Chamber of Commerce.


  • Low jobless rates in the EU’s poor eastern fringe are in part a result of massive labor migration. Brain drain is also a serious problem there. Since 2007 around 14,000 Romanian doctors and 50,000 nurses have left to work elsewhere. Each year around 450 doctors and 1,000 nurses leave Bulgaria to find better job opportunities in Western Europe, Deutsche Welle reports.

 Compiled by Valentine Sargent

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