The number of Norwegians seeking unemployment benefits rose almost 350% in the past two weeks, after companies temporarily laid off tens of thousands of workers to cope with the loss of demand triggered by the spread of the virus. Registered unemployment is now 10.4%, which is the highest on record for the measure.
“The development in the Norwegian labor market over the past two weeks has no historical precedent,” Sigrun Vageng, the head of the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, said in a statement.
The figures, now published on a weekly basis, underscore the rapid deterioration of the economy. The situation has already led the central bank to resort to two emergency rate cuts and threaten to intervene in currency markets to fight a panic-driven sell-off of the krone.
The Norwegian government has vowed to do everything it can to support the economy, and has so far presented measures totaling about 280 billion kroner ($25 billion), ranging from deferred taxes to higher unemployment benefits and loan guarantees.
Registered unemployment might be the highest since the Great Depression in the 1930s, when unemployment rose to between 10% and 11% at the most, according to Oystein Dorum, chief economist at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise.