The growth in the number of employees in 2023 could be reduced by a wave of increased early retirements by approximately 0.7 to 1.1 percentage points. "At the end of last year, almost 47,000 applications for early retirement were registered. In the past, the average annual number of applicants for this benefit was only approximately 14,000," the analysts said.

The share of self-employed people in employment grew
At the same time, part of the employees probably moved to the self-employed. Their number increased mainly in industry, construction and low-skilled services. Since 1995, the share of self-employed people in employment in Slovakia has grown the most among European Union (EU) countries.

"Almost all of the growth in the number of self-employed persons (SZČO) over the past 25 years has been generated by a group of self-employed people, which raises questions regarding their motivation and possible abuse of the system. Their share in the total number of SZČO is up to 82 percent and is the fifth highest in the EU," IFP said.

German foreign trade is weakening
In December of last year, German foreign trade also experienced a significant cooling. Month-on-month, nominal exports decreased by 4.6 percent and imports by 6.7 percent. According to analysts, the drop in imports is important for Slovak exporters, as Germany is our main trading partner.

"December orders in the automotive industry are also sending negative signals, which in Germany fell by 15 percent compared to the previous month. Slovak exports experienced a significant decline already in November, but developments in the EU's largest economy indicate that the negative trend may persist in the coming months as well," the analysts concluded.