Switzerland's unemployment rate has fallen more sharply than expected, standing at 3.8 per cent at the end of February, in the first decline since July.This content was published on March 7, 2006 - 11:24
The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) reported on Tuesday that the non-seasonally adjusted figure was down from 3.9 per cent the previous month.
The figure of 150,099 unemployed was 4,105 fewer than the previous month.
Seco said in a statement from its headquarters in Bern that the number of job seekers fell by 3,431 to 218,394. The number of vacant posts at job centres rose by 1,684 to 10,971.
Jean-Luc Nordmann, Seco's deputy director, said that the February declines were stronger than expected and that the trend would continue over the coming months.
The improvement was largely down to seasonal and economic factors, he added.
"After the strong growth at the end of 2005 we are seeing a cyclical improvement in the labour market, slowly but gradually," said analyst Jan Poser from Bank Sarasin.
"It should continue improving throughout the year," he told Reuters.
Cantons in the French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country showed higher jobless rates than their German-speaking counterparts.
Geneva led the field with 7.2 per cent, followed by Vaud at 5.3 per cent. This compares with Bern at 2.9 per cent.
Reacting to the latest figures, the trade union Travail.Suisse said that the unemployment rate remained high despite the economic upturn and the fact that firms were recording good results.
It added that the country had an "employment problem" which couldn't be solved with reforms to social security and pensions, and called for a better employment policy.
The unemployment figures come a day after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assessed the prospects for the Swiss economy as "positive" in its annual review of Switzerland.
However, it urged the country to push on with reforms to its social security and pensions sectors, and open up its markets.
swissinfo with agencies
Swiss unemployment rates:
February 2006: 3.8%
January 2006: 3.9%
February 2005: 4.1%
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