Monthly Jobless Data Classified as Secret

The State Statistics Service will make monthly jobless reports secret, Kommersant reported Wednesday, days after data showed that unemployment was soaring and experts said it was the biggest threat to social stability.

On Monday, the State Statistics Service reported that some 1.8 million Russians lost their jobs in the first three months of 2009, taking the jobless rate to an eight-year high. But it was the first time that it did not reveal monthly figures, and unidentified officials were quoted as saying reports would now be made public only on a quarterly basis.

The State Statistics Service declined to comment.

According to Reuters' calculations, unemployment hit 11.9 percent in March from 8.5 percent in February, assuming that previous data was unrevised.

"The shift [in jobless data reporting] could imply a huge leap in March that Rosstat [the State Statistics Service] is seeking to smooth over with this new reporting method," said Rory MacFarquhar, an economist with Goldman Sachs.

"A more sympathetic -- and optimistic -- explanation would be that the statistical authorities have simply decided to stop interpolating monthly figures from less frequent household employment surveys to avoid distortions that have arisen during the current turmoil on the labor market," he said.

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