Czechs earn 79 percent of the European Union average per capita gross domestic product, according to the latest figures (for 2006) quoted in Lidove noviny. The Czech Republic is the 17th richest country in the 27-member EU. The Czechs were just above Malta in the table, and were five places ahead of their Slovak neighbours, who are ranked the 22nd wealthiest nation in the Union.
The unemployment rate in the Czech Republic has made another slight fall; it stood at 6.3 percent in June, down from 6.4 percent the previous month. The number of Czech job seekers in June was just under 350,000. The new figures have prompted more reports that employers in many sectors are experiencing difficulties hiring staff.
Meanwhile, the Labour Ministry said on Friday that there had been a rise of over 10 percent in the number of foreigners working legally in the Czech Republic between January and July this year. There are over 200,000 legal foreign workers in the country, almost twice as many as at the end of 2004. Almost half of them are from Slovakia, followed by Ukraine with over 50,000 and Poland with more than 21,000.
Despite higher interest rates, Czechs are signing up for mortgages in ever increasing numbers, Hospodarske noviny reported this week. Their motivation is apparently fear of further interest rate hikes. A representative of the country's biggest bank, Ceska sporitelna, said there had been a rise of 60 percent year-on-year in the amount it lent in mortgages in the first half of 2007, adding that June was the bank's most successful month ever in this area.
Zatec in north-west Bohemia is famous for producing the Czech Republic's best hops. But now the town is home to another industry, with the Japanese electronics maker IPS Alpha recently opening a new plant there manufacturing LCD screens. By the end of the year the factory could be turning out up to 7,000 screens a day, its director told a daily newspaper this week.
Czechs are buying more cars in total but fewer Czech-made Skodas, it was reported this week. Almost 70,000 new passenger cars were sold in the first half of this year - a 6-percent rise compared to the same period in 2006. Skoda Auto did remain the best-selling make, though the company's share of the market dropped from 41 percent to under 37 percent.
Meanwhile, the total number of cars owned in the Czech Republic rose from 3.7 million in the year 2000 to 4.1 million late last year, Hospodarske noviny reported, quoting a survey conducted for the Transport Ministry. However, many Czechs are getting about in aging motors: two-fifths of the country's passenger cars are at least 15 years old, the Association of Automotive Industries said this week.
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