At the end of December, ANOFM reported a total of 709,383 jobless and an unemployment rate of 7.8%.

The number of jobless increased in January for the 19th month in a row to the highest level since March 2003, when labor officials were recording 779,154 unemployed persons.

The minister of labor, Mihai Seitan said at the end of last year that the jobless rate was expected to climb to 8-8.5% in the first quarter 2010, but to drop to 7.3% at the end of 2010, from 7.8% at end-2009.

Seitan added that around 70-80,000 public sector jobs could be axed this year.

At the end of January, IMF mission chief in Romania, Jeffrey Franks said the unemployment rates would rise further in Romania until mid 2010, and the number of jobless could hit one million.

“Personally, I think unemployment rates will continue to rise until mid year. (…) Overall, I think one million jobless is very likely”, said Franks.

However, Prime Minister Emil Boc said no official document of the IMF referred to the unemployment rate, and according to Government’s forecast, jobless rate would stand below end-2009 levels.