The unemployment rate has risen in Switzerland for the first time since January, climbing from 3.6 to 3.7 per cent last month.
Young people are the worst affected, with the jobless rate among 15- to 24-year-olds rising to 5.3 per cent.
Figures from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) on Tuesday showed that the number of unemployed rose by 2,798 to 145,923 at the end of August.
This is the first time that the rate has risen in seven months, since January’s high of 4.3 per cent.
Canton Geneva continues to be worst affected by unemployment, with a rate of 7.1 per cent.
The number of people looking for work in August rose by 2,045 to 212,785.
The statistics come at a time when experts, including officials at Seco, are predicting that the economic recovery in Switzerland will gain momentum next year.
But Seco says companies have yet to begin hiring again despite the upturn.
“Our experts say that the economic situation is good, but that it will take longer for the effects to be seen on employment,” said Seco’s Rita Baldegger.
Astrid Frey, an analyst at Bank Sarasin, said it was surprising to see a rise in the unadjusted rate, especially in summer.
“However, the downtrend is not distorted,” she said. “We have always said the recovery will be slow in the jobs market and we will see unchanged unemployment in some months, so that is not so worrying.
“But, of course, we would like to see a quicker improvement in the labour market.”
According to Seco, young people aged 15 to 24 were suffering the most, with 29,286 out of work in August – a jobless rate of 5.3 per cent. This compares with July’s figure of 4.6 per cent.
Among 20- to 24-year-olds, the rate reached 6.0 per cent. Seco said the jobless situation for young people was unsatisfactory but in line with predictions.
“The rise in unemployment in August was expected due to the fact that many young people have now finished their training,” said Jean-Luc Nordmann, head of Seco’s labour division.
“The scale [of it] is, however, at the high end,” he added.
Seco pointed out that 60,000 apprentices and 53,000 school leavers had managed to find work. Officials said they did not expect young people to remain out of work for long.
Seco added that it was running several youth employment programmes, such as offering internships in companies and training courses.
But Peter Sigerist, head of training at the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions, said the figures for youth unemployment were “staggering”, especially as they had not improved.
“Steps must be taken immediately,” Sigerist told swissinfo.
“Firms must, for example, keep young people who have finished their apprenticeships for at least one year or offer them further training so that they have better chances on the job market,” he added.
Sigerist added that the measures should not necessarily come from the government but also from business.
On the positive side, Seco said there were now fewer people working reduced hours. In July the number of people working shorter hours fell by 52 per cent to 1,559.
This showed that workloads were rising and that there would soon be more vacancies, especially in the hospitality and building sectors, said Seco.
Seco is predicting an average jobless rate of 3.8 per cent for this year, or 150,000 people out of work. It says it expects better figures in the future.
“If the upturn maintains this rhythm, it’s possible that the unemployment rate could fall to between 2.8 and 3.2 per cent in 2005,” Baldegger told swissinfo.
But many Swiss still remain fearful about their jobs. A survey published by the United Nations International Labor Organization last week ranked Switzerland 16th in terms of job security.
The report looked at economic security in 90 countries on the basis of national surveys by governments and organisations.
Unemployment in August 2004: 3.8%
Unemployment in January 2004: 4.3%
Youth unemployment in August 2004 (15-24 years): 5.3%
79,3% of jobless find employment within a year.
In January, the jobless rate reached a high of 4.3 per cent. It fell for seven months before rising again to 3.7 per cent in August.
Experts at Seco have revised up the average jobless rate for this year to 3.8 per cent.
Thanks to seasonal work and the work market structure, the Swiss jobless rate is much lower than that of its neighbours.