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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

October Jobless Total Climbs to 1.7 Million

More than 1.7 million people were registered as unemployed in October, an increase of 100,000 from the previous month, the Federal Employment Service of Russia said Friday.

The total is likely to hit 2 million by the end of the year -- double the figure from January -- and there would be a further increase to between 4 million and 5 million next year, Fyodor Propokov, director of the service, said at a press conference.

The figure represents only those who officially register as out of work. According to Western analysts, actual joblessness in Russia may be four or five times higher.

Keith Bush, senior associate in Russian Studies at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the real unemployment figure was 9 million, or 12 percent of the working population, based on "the consensus of the best estimates."

One explanation for the discrepancy is that few people bother to register as unemployed because the benefit payments are so low, according to Bush. Unemployment benefits currently range from 35,000 rubles to 40,000 rubles (around $12) a month, Propokov said.

A study by the International Labor Organization released in September estimated that more than one-third of Russian workers are in "suppressed unemployment," that is in work but without actual jobs or real pay.

The Employment Service's figures do not take into account the many people on unpaid leave, Bush said. "Directors hold on to the workforce because termination payments are high and they do not have the money to pay them," he said.

"Most workers are very immobile. Most live in company housing and are loath to leave until they are sure of housing with their next job," Bush said.

The employment service found jobs for nearly 900,000 people in the first 10 months of 1994 and 68,000 people were currently undergoing retraining, Propokov said.

The first priorities of the service were to help the long-term unemployed, some 20 percent of those registered, Propokov said.

One program was to give advice and training to people starting up small businesses. The overall aim was to teach people how to look after themselves in the job market, he said.

But the service, which has some 2,000 centers around the country, is not yet working effectively, according to Bush, in particular as a service connecting up workers with jobs elsewhere in the country. "It is a very urgent task for the government," Bush said.