Economist says Turkey unemployment rate at 23 percent, defying official figures

Economist and former Treasury advisor Mahfi Eğilmez said on Saturday that Turkey's unemployment rate reached 23 percent in March, disputing recently revealed official figures.

The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) said the unemployment rate was 13.2 percent in March. But, Eğilmez said in an article on his blog that the official figures were based on the number of people who officially say they do not have a job and are looking for work for a period of at least four weeks.

The prominent economist said seasonal workers and those who did not officially say they are unemployed, as well as people looking for work for less than four weeks, should be added to the unemployment rate.

"If we do not calculate it like this, then we reach artificial conclusions, as unemployment decreases where employment decreases, which is nothing but self-deception," he said.

Unemployment was a persistent problem throughout 2019 despite the government’s measures to boost the economy, rising by nearly 1 million over the course of the year. But by September, positive signs came from the country’s industrial output, a key contributor to economic growth.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has put a halt to the recovery, with economic activity slowing to a crawl in many of the country’s sectors. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has declared it a priority to “keep the economic wheels turning” as the country fights the pandemic.

Some 694,000 people lost their jobs in the services industry in March alone, while job losses reached 202,000 in construction and 85,000 in industry.