Estonia’s trade deficit narrowed to the lowest level in almost eight years in February as the deepening recession cut hard into consumption. The deficit shrank to 1.1 billion krooni ($93 million), the lowest since May 2001, compared with 1.6 billion krooni in January. Exports fell an annual 26 percent and imports slumped 33 percent, according to statistics office data. Having a very sharp fall in imports is, of course, one way to close the trade deficit, but the fall in living standards involved in doing it this way is hardly optimum, or enjoyable. As consumption falls, and with it demand for products and services, so unemployment rises, and at the end of March 54 979 unemployed were registered as unemployed with the Estonian Labour Market Board, an 18.5 percent increase on the February number and an estimated 8.4% of the economically active population. In the last year unemployment has now increased by 220 percent.
At the end of March 9445 young people in the ages of 16-24 and 14 188 persons of 50 or over were registered with the Labour Market Board. 53.6 percent of those registered were men. Registered unemployment was highest in Võrumaa (13.2%), Ida-Virumaa (12.7%), Valgamaa (11.9 %) and Põlvamaa (10.5 %). The lowest levels of unemployment were in Tartumaa (6.7%), Hiiumaa (7%) and Harjumaa (7.2%).