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Iran Ranks Students, Housewives As Employed

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Counting students and housewives among the ranks of the employed has helped lower Iran's jobless rate, an official at the statistics office said in remarks published on January 24.

The government of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who is widely expected to run for reelection in June, recently said the country's unemployment rate had fallen below 10 percent.

The statistics official was quoted as saying that students and housewives had been included in groups regarded as employed and that this has contributed to lowering the rate. He did not say how they were treated previously in the statistics.

"Considering these groups of people as employed caused the unemployment rate to fall in the autumn compared to the summer," the official, identified only by his last name Anari, said. He did not give any figures or other details.

The comments, originally carried by the semi-official Fars News Agency, were published in the "Sarmayeh" business daily and also in another Iranian newspaper.

Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 on a pledge to share Iran's oil wealth more fairly but reformist critics blame him for squandering windfall oil income earned in recent years and fuelling inflation.

They say the government has drawn down its reserves even during good times, including from a fund designed to help at times of falling oil prices, such as now. Iran is the world's fourth-largest crude producer.

An Iranian development economist this month said the unofficial unemployment rate was considerably higher than the official figure of around 10 percent.

Including also those who were underemployed, the rate was around 20-25 percent, the economist told Reuters, declining to be named.

He also said Iran's economy only created about half of the 1 million jobs it needed every year to absorb newcomers in the labor market.