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- The end of each month in times of coronavirus is marked by uncertainty: Will I get a layoff notice or not. Already at the end of March, there were rumours all around my company that cutbacks are imminent. They did not happen then. But now I hear that in April layoffs are almost certain, although officially there is no message from the management - Anna,  an employee of one of the corporations from the office district at Domaniewska, told us on April 29.

She added: - I think that such emotions are here to stay for the foreseeable months. Of course, assuming I will still have this job. 

The company is not seeking help from any of the programs belonging to the "anti-crisis shield", despite the fact that its turnover has decreased. Hence the fear among employees that there will be group layoffs - the employer would not be allowed to carry them out if he successfully applied for state support.  

The effects of coronavirus on the labor market will be fully visible in a few months

According to data from the Warsaw employment office, by April 24, 32 companies had reported large-scale redundancies. And since March 14, 1593 people lost their jobs as part of group layoffs, while 678 saw their work or pay conditions changed. When we asked about the same at the beginning of April, 14 companies notified the group redundancies. In just a few weeks, the number of employers who plan them has more than doubled.

At the same time, there is no large increase in unemployment. From April 1 to April 27, 1326 people registered with the labor office. To this should be added 1472 pending electronic registrations. In turn, in April 2019, 2,582 people registered. Urszula Murawska, head of the marketing department at the labor office also informs that in connection with the coronavirus epidemic, many employers have suspended or canceled recruitment.

The observations of Wojciech Gajewski, director of the social welfare center in Praga Północ show that for the time being there has not been a large increase in people in need applying for help after losing their job. - But there are a lot of calls from people who are afraid of it and want to check in advance what help they can count on - says director Gajewski.

- This is not a good time to rely purely on statistical data - says Dr. Kazimierz Sedlak, director at Sedlak & Sedlak, a company specializing in labor market research. He explains that under normal economic conditions, one can predict the rise or fall of unemployment with high accuracy. But now, during the epidemic, it's a great unknown. - Little is known from current data. The government is trying to use the existing statistics to show that the outlook is not so bad. The same government a few weeks ago claimed that GDP projections have to fall, but they still expect positive growth. Now the Prime Minister has backtracked on this forecast and switched to a negative one. It can be the same with unemployment. It is only in a few weeks or even months that the effects of coronavirus on the labor market will be visible. Especially that our statistics for the entire economy are published late. In the US - every week, and in Norway even every day - says Dr. Sedlak.

He adds: - In addition, some people who lost their jobs so far received their notice, and so technically they are still continuing to work. This can last even for up to three months. Such people first look for new posts and do not register with the employment office. Additionally, Poles who worked abroad and lost their jobs can be expected to come back to Poland.

"Unemployment does not appear immediately after a crisis"

Michał Olszewski, Deputy President of Warsaw, shares a similar view: 

- Remember that unemployment does not appear immediately after the crisis. We might have access to relatively reliable data in Jun at earliest. The economy is like domino blocks. Same applies for office spaces. Many people work remotely. Perhaps some companies, looking for savings after the epidemic, will stay with this solution. Such a decision will affect the employment of e.g. developers, but also in the restaurant sector around these offices - he explains.

He adds: - I am far from fear mongering and demonizing. After the epidemic, however, we will return to another reality. It is not like the prime minister will order the opening of hotels and the economy will return to how it was before. In Warsaw, the hotel market is mainly conferences and training sessions. Which company will decide now to organize such events again? And, as I said, all those sectors of the economy are like connected vessels: if there are no conferences, then not only hotels lose income, but also many other companies in the service sector that are involved  in supporting such conferences.

Dr Kazimierz Sedlak: - In my opinion, by the end of the year unemployment in Poland may reach double-digits. This spike will be felt also in large cities, including Warsaw. I expect a snowball effect, because the decline in consumption caused by the epidemic will cause problems for an increasing number of companies. The coronavirus has launched an avalanche and it is difficult to predict when and at what level of decline in GDP and unemployment it will stop.

Anna, who was afraid of being terminated in late April, still has a job. For now. 

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronovirus pandemic for you.

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