Unemployment on the Suðurnes peninsula in Southwest Iceland was more than double the national rate last month. While across the country, 4.1% of the labour force was registered as unemployed, in Suðurnes that rate was 8.4%, an increase of 1.1% from the previous month. The numbers come from the Directorate of Labour’s monthly report.
The Suðurnes peninsula is one of the most densely populated areas of Iceland, with a population of over 25,000, most of whom live in the town of Reykjanesbær. The region’s biggest employer is Keflavík International Airport. The bankruptcy of WOW air in March significantly reduced traffic at the airport, leading to layoffs among several airport service companies.
Unemployment affects young, foreign men
More men are unemployed in Suðurnes than women, and nearly 60% of those unemployed are foreigners. Most of those unemployed do not have a high level of education and most are young – many under 30 and the vast majority under 50 years old.
Mayor of Reykjanesbær Kjartan Már Kjartansson told Vísir the region is used to ups and downs. “Unemployment went up to 15% when the [American] army went,” he stated. “There are certainly other opportunities in employment but they have little weight compared to the airport.”
The national unemployment rate is expected to increase in December to somewhere between 4.2% and 4.4%. Hildur Jakobína Gísladóttir, the director of the Suðurnes branch of the Directorate of Labour, says the situation should change in the spring. “Tourism revs up again around March and we hope that people find work then.”