Jobless Figure Hits 6 Million

The head of the Federal Labor and Employment Service said Saturday that the number of Russians without work rose to 6 million in December from 5 million the month before.

Yury Gertsy told Ekho Moskvy radio that the figures were according to International Labor Organization rules, meaning they included those who have not tried to find a job for six months.

The number provides a jarring -- and likely unwelcome -- contrast to the official data, which only includes those who are actively looking for employment. Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova said last week that the number had reached 1.5 million and could hit 2 million in 2009.

Gertsy played down the significance of the 6 million figure, calling it "characteristic of other world economies," and he confirmed that 1.52 million people were currently receiving unemployment benefits. He said industrial regions have been the hardest hit, including Yaroslavl, Volgograd, Krasnoyarsk and Nizhny Novgorod.

President Dmitry Medvedev last week ordered his representatives to the federal administrative districts to make sure that regions are complying with a massive, 43 billion ruble ($1.3 billion) program to fight unemployment.

Gertsy said a Transportation Ministry program to build new roads and other "temporary work" would be a focus of the program.