Has employment crisis filtered all the way through Iceland’s economy?

Iceland’s Directorate of Labour received notifications of group lay-offs from four companies and organisations in June. A total of 123 people were laid off in those four instances. Despite this, overall unemployment is down and the Directorate chief sounded a positive note.

11 people were laid off at the Lotna fish factory in the tiny Westfjords town of Flateyri, while the others were at companies or other organisations in the capital region. 11 were let go by the Reykjavik department of sport, recreation and culture; while the others were in the fields of trade and education. The Directorate of Labour did not reveal the names of those companies, RUV reported.

So far this year 500 people have been the victims of group lay-offs in Iceland at 16 companies and organisations. A third of those came from the construction industry.

Gissur Petursson, head of the Directorate of Labour, said that immediately following the banking collapse of late 2008, group lay-offs mostly affected those in sectors under the greatest strain; like finance, construction and luxury retail. “Then it evened out, but now in the last month there have been group lay-offs in public sector services which have taken this long to filter through,” he said.

Petursson added that all signs indicate that unemployment in June dipped below seven percent and that it is extremely unlikely that all those who lost their jobs in group lay-offs will end up claiming unemployment benefit. “I’d say that of these 500, if I just take as an example these group lay-offs happening now this year, that less than 50 percent of them are really losing their jobs. The others are more caught in a re-organisation stage at the companies and will hopefully get their jobs back, maybe with different conditions attached. I think if we look at these 500 people, only 100 have become genuinely unemployed as a result.”

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