The labour market was in an extraordinarily good place in the fourth quarter of 2019, as unemployment remained low at 4.1% and employment was up 0.4% over the year. The data do indicate though that the labour market is cooling.
As it was throughout 2019, Harjumaa was the region where employment increased most in the fourth quarter. The contraction in the oil shale sector pulled down employment in Ida-Virumaa. Employment of permanent residents of Estonia increased in the service sector and fell in the industrial sector. However, if short-term foreign workers in Estonia are counted as well, employment was up over the year in industry.
Although the Estonian labour market is doing extraordinarily well at the moment, the data indicate that it has started to cool. Data from the Tax and Customs Board for example show that the number receiving a wage fell in seasonally adjusted monthly comparison, while the number registered as unemployed has been rising for some time. Employer expectations for employment in the industrial sector and construction have become more pessimistic, and the share of companies expecting employment to fall is larger than the share expecting it to increase. The number of foreigners holding short-term registration to work in Estonia has been holding steady at just under 20,000 since the second quarter of 2019, and the rapid rise in that number seems to have come to an end.