This study poses the question about whether labour market institutions can explain unemployment rates in the ten new European Union member states. In five out of the ten new member states, unemployment rates lie above the average in the 15 member states of the European Union (EU-15) that comprised the EU prior to May 2004. The study finds that labour market institutions in the acceding countries are less rigid than in the EU-15. Moreover, labour market institutions explain only a minor part of unemployment in the new EU member states. This does not mean that these countries have no labour market problems. Just as in the EU-15, a great deal of heterogeneity exists among the acceding countries. In some of them, labour market reforms could prove a key issue in improving employment performance. The main worry is the poor labour market performance in Poland and the Slovak Republic, where unemployment has risen to almost 20%. The main reasons for this growth are i) postponed restructuring in combination with tight monetary policy, ii) poor governance, and iii) an increasing labour force.