The unemployment rate in Argentina dropped by 0.9 percent — from 8.5 to 7.6 percent — between the third and fourth quarters of 2016, according to figures from the INDEC statistics agency. However, a closer look reveals that there’s not much to celebrate, as this is most likely due to seasonal factors, and because fewer people are looking for work.

The Permanent Survey of Households (Encuesta permanente de hogares) revealed that, for the 31 urban areas surveyed, there were 937,000 people unemployed and 2.7 million with employment problems — people who work less than 35 hours a week but want to work more and people who have a job but are actively looking for another one.

Out of these areas, Mar del Plata, in the Buenos Aires Province, had the highest levels of unemployment, with 10.6 percent.  Viedma, the capital of the Río Negro Province, had the lowest, with 0.8 percent.

When the survey’s results are projected onto a national scale, the number increases to 1.5 million unemployed people and 4.3 million people with employment problems by the end of the year.

Using the projected stats then, the Buenos Aires Province would have 967,000 unemployed people, for example.

When explaining the seasonality factor, private analysts said the fourth quarter usually tends to show lower unemployment levels than the third, as there are usually more job offers in the second part of the year, according to La Nación. As for the smaller number of people looking for a job, they attributed it to the “despondency effect” – people who have given up looking for work.

We must also consider a combination of the two: lots of people stop looking for work at the end of the year, maybe because they have given up, maybe because they found a temporary job for the season. They then return to their search in March.

As such, Agustín Salvia, coordinator of the Argentine Social Debt Observatory at UCA, concludes that the country is not experiencing an unemployment crisis, but is suffering from a stagnant labor market.

Moreover, the rate of activity – people actively looking for work – fell from 46 percent of unemployed people in the third quarter to 45.3 percent at the end of the year.

In contrast with private analysts, Labor Minister Jorge Triaca argues that the lower employment figures for this quarter point to a “recovery” for certain economic areas. “We still haven’t recovered what we lost. However, the construction sector, for instance – the sector that suffered the most last year – is the one with most chances of recovery for two reasons: investment in public works and also everything we are doing to drive private building works.”