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Estonia Unemployment Falls on Construction, Exports

Estonia’s unemployment rate dropped to the lowest level this year in the third quarter as a seasonal improvement in construction and demand for the country’s exports created jobs.

Unemployment fell to 15.5 percent, matching the level in the fourth quarter of last year, from 18.6 percent in the April-June period, the statistics office in Tallinn said today on its website. The rate rose to a record 19.8 percent in the first quarter as Estonia suffered the European Union’s second-deepest recession.

Recovery in demand for Estonian goods from the Baltic nation’s key Nordic trading partners boosted hiring at companies including the local units of Zurich-based ABB Ltd., which makes wind generators, and Zurich-based Enics AG, an electronics maker. The Finance Ministry and Hardo Pajula, an economist with SEB AB, said the decline in jobless rate was bigger than expected.

“The much faster-than-expected decline in unemployment was a positive surprise,” Pajula said in an e-mailed comment. SEB may revise its forecast for average unemployment rate this year to “about” 17 percent from 18 percent forecast last month, he said.

The Finance Ministry said it expects a “stable” decline in jobless rate over the next 12 months. In August, it had forecast a drop in average unemployment to 15.4 percent next year and 13.6 percent in 2012.

Jobs were created mainly in construction, where employment increased by 14,000, and in manufacturing and trade, which added 12,000 and 8,000 more workers, respectively, the statistics office said. The share of long-term unemployed rose to 53 percent of the total, or 56,000 persons, while the number of those having given up job search remained unchanged at 9,000.

Merko Ehitus, the largest listed Baltic builder, increased personnel by 16 percent annually in the third quarter to 891, compared with 847 at the end of second quarter, the Tallinn-based company said this week.

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