Albania’s population shrank by a stunning 2.5 million last year, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), a state-run statistics agency.
The total number of people working in the country plunged by 4.2 million, the CSO said.
The drop in the labor force participation rate (LPR) has been widely attributed to a lack of available jobs and a high rate of absenteeism.
But the CSOs statistics also show that the labor market in Albania has improved, with the employment rate of Albanians increasing from 55.7 percent in 2009 to 67.7 in 2016.
But some argue that the unemployment rate is much higher.
Albanians still live in fear of unemployment, with an estimated 5.5 percent of the population working, according the CSOS.
The CSO says the rate of unemployment in Albania is the highest in Europe, even ahead of the United States.
The Albanian government is spending around €1 billion ($1.07 billion) a year on unemployment insurance, the largest in Europe.
Unemployment in the rest of Europe is less than €300 a month.
The number of unemployed Albanians has also been growing in recent years, according a report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).
In 2016, there were 1.2million people working without any job.
Unemployment was 6.3 percent in 2016, up from 5.3% in 2015, according data from the EU statistics agency Eurostat.
Albania’s economy grew by 5.7% in 2016 compared to 4.8% in 2009, according Eurostat, and the government has promised to invest around €2 billion ($2.5 billion) to help boost the economy.
However, the country has faced criticism from the international community for its high levels of unemployment.
Albanian Prime Minister Anastasiades told the New York Times in February that the government should not have “lost its way” in tackling the unemployment crisis.
Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe and the EU has not recognised Albania as a candidate state in its 2014 summit, due to a conflict between the Albanian state and the European Union.
Albania is currently negotiating a new bailout agreement with its international creditors, who have pledged to help with economic recovery.
Albania, which has not ratified the EU treaty, is also seeking EU membership, which it needs to become a member state.