KATOWICE, Poland, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Poland's unemployment rate probably rose further in January, possibly as high as 14.4 percent, Labour Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz said on Wednesday.
'It is my prediction that January will be a difficult month for the labour market. I expect unemployment to rise by 0.5-1.0 (percentage points) compared with December,' Kosiniak-Kamysz said.
'Winter months are as always the most difficult,' he said, adding that he did not have final data yet.
Poland's jobless rate rose to 13.4 percent in December, the highest level in 10 months. If the unemployment rate hit 14.4 percent in January, it would be the highest level since March 2007.
Poland's is the only economy in the European Union to have avoided recession since the global crisis erupted in 2008 but it is now slowing sharply.
In 2012, it grew 2.0 percent, its weakest rate in three years and less than half of the 4.3 percent reported for 2011.
Most forecasts point to a further slowdown this year with the economy under pressure from a tight fiscal policy and one of the highest official interest rates in Europe thanks to high inflation over the last five years.
Recent data also signalled that private consumption may have shrunk in the fourth quarter last year, for the first time since the fall of Communism in 1989, raising the possibility that the economy as a whole is now either stagnating or contracting.
A regional labour office in Mazowsze, central Poland, told Reuters that jobs were being lost across all economic sectors, particularly in small- and medium-sized companies, but that the economy as a whole remained very diverse.
The jobless rate in the flourishing capital, Warsaw, is about 4.3 percent, while further afield it reaches almost 40 percent in some areas.
(Reporting by Wojciech Zurawski; Writing by Karolina Slowikowska; Editing by Ruth Pitchford) Keywords: POLAND UNEMPLOYMENT/
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